Racism in Canada - An examination of the history of racism in canada in relation to Indigenous child welfare

Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Feburary 11, 2023

In February 2023 on a two day in person conference held by Queen's School of Law and the Smith School of Business, the Queens Conference on Indigenous Reconciliation. The Queen's Conference on Indigenous Reconciliation (QCIR) is a two-day conference focusing on Reconciliation in business and law. The goal of the annual conference is learning how institutions, settlers and Indigenous people can work collaborativel at getting meaningful results in the struggle for Indigenous Reconciliation.

The annual Queens Reconciliation conference hopes to create the opportunity to learn about Reconciliation in Canada, and the conference offers resources for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through a series of panels and workshops held by leading Indigenous professionals and academics in the field. The goal of the annual Queens Reconciliation conference is to support the attendees with the network and knowledge to transform their ideas into action.  

Keynote speaker, Board of Directors Chair of The National Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation, Wayne Garnons-Williams who is a scooped survivor from Moosomin First Nation reserve in Treaty 6., Mr. Garnons-Williams presented an examination of the history of racism in Canada in relation to Indigenous child welfare in Canada.  He started off with a personal account of his lived experience as a survivor of the Sixties Scoop.  

Mr. Garnons-Williams talked about the institutional and systemic racism that Canada was founded upon first evidenced through the Residential Schools where the philosophy was to “take the Indian out of the child and save the man” (citing Richard Henry Pratt, - longtime superintendent of the influential Carlisle Industrial School in Pennsylvania, 1892).  This same racist sentiment was then carrying over into the Sixties Scoop which Mr. Garnons-Williams citing Dr. Jacqueline Maurice (CEO of the SSHF) and Queen's University Chancellor, Justice Murry Sinclair refer to as the “Stolen Generation” and continues today in a disproportionately high amount of Indigenous children and youth who remain in the child welfare system either temporarily through foster care and group homes or permanently through adoption.  

Mr. Garnons-Williams shared the historical record of the Sixties Scoop in Canada highlighting that most children who endured this traumatic experience were “bounced from foster home to foster home with no parenting and no love.”  He notes that each province had specific fostering and adoption programming including Saskatchewan’s Adopt Indian Métis (AIM program) which was discontinued in the 1980s yet remains responsible for survivors being forced out of their reserves and home communities and sometimes placed in other provinces or even internationally.    

Mr. Garnons-Williams was particularly passionate in noting the unacceptable reality that this issue has not yet been resolved. In the 2016 Canadian Census it was stated that 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous although the Indigenous youth only make up 7.7% of the total child population. Statistically, this means that 15,000 out of 29,000 youth in care are Indigenous  and First Nations, Métis and Inuit children are 14% more likely to be taken into care than other Caucasian children including up to 90% of Indigenous children and youth in some provinces such as Manitoba.  An additional 38% of Indigenous young people live in poverty compared to 6% of the general child population.

Considering a sustainable way forward, Mr. Garnons-Williams looked at two tools in particular: The UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  He passionately called for reform within provincial child welfare policies using the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action on Child Welfare and Legacy as a benchmark.
Mr. Garnons-Williams' powerful keynote address highlights the important work of the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation (SSHF) - a registered charity established in 2019 through the National Sixties Scoop Class Action Settlement against the Federal Government, and which holds a completely survivor-led volunteer Board of Directors and a CEO with lived experience. The role of the SSHF is ultimately to provide healing programs through resource grants for all survivors, their families, and descendants to experience reconciliation and re-unification through a culturally safe and trauma informed lens.  The primary way the SSHF accomplishes this is through responsible distribution of funds in the form of grants to First Nations, Inuit and Metis organizations.  To date the Foundation has awarded over $4.1 million in grants for healing programs from coast to coast to coast.  

Mr. Garnons-Williams, like so many children scooped from their Indigenous families are now adults who are still longing for their reunification with their siblings, parents, , extended family and communities.  

Mr. Garnons-Williams, born on the Moosomin First Nations Reserve in Saskatchewan to a single mother of two children.  He spoke about his birthmother’s experience with having her child stolen from her arms by the government:  

“She had done nothing wrong. She just happened to be a single parent mom with a second kid, me living on the reserve”  

 His mother was faced with a choice from the Saskatchewan Social Services as they deemed their income fell below the poverty line, and it was considered “in the best interest of the child” to have him apprehended as an infant.   He recounts the police and child protection services arriving on the reserve and giving his birthmother a difficult ultimatum – that she must either choose one child to hand over to authorities for permanent adoption away from her or else lose them both,  

“That has haunted my birth mother and tormented her all her life”.  

At the Queen’s Conference on Indigenous Reconciliation 2023 for Sustainable Pathways to Reconciliation, Garnons-Williams told his personal story of the 60’s scoop; the stealing of  and adopting children out to have them integrate to white settler families without legal protection of Family preservation and the permenant loss of culture, language and in some cases the lives  of our little sisters and brothers. This ignites the challenges to work through reconciliation to bring revitalization of Indigenous legal, cultural and ligusitic traditions through conversation on reconciliation in Canada for all Indigenous Children.  

In this keynote Wayne addresses the reconnection with his mother for the first time and the fact that his birth mother  shared her very first Christmas in 2022 with her scooped child and his children (her grandchildren).  

This is an example of what real Indigenous Reconciliation can look like. To all sixties scoop survivors and their descendants the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation is here to help and we welcome all the families and relations effected by the scoop.  

Thank you very much to Mr. Garnons-Williams for your important work in spreading the mission and vision of the SSHF with the general public!  

You can view the full presentation here:

This conference was a joint-effort between the Queen's School of Law and the Smith School of Business. The goal of the conference is to put what you learn in the course of this conference and in your own pursuits into action creating your own ripple effect.  

Queen's Conference on Indigenous Reconciliation
https://www.queensreconciliation.com/copy-of-about https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iKAOAVDZ50YewbpJrACCFi03nbJeeUR8/view
Adopt Indian and Métis Project (AIM) - Law Society of Saskatchewan, Legal Aid Saskatchewan , and the Department of History, at the University of Saskatchewan. (https://gladue.usask.ca/node/6626#:~:text=%22From%201967%20to%201969%20%5Bhowever,adoptions%20of%20overrepresented%20native%20children)
Government of Canada - The Residential School System  https://www.canada.ca/en/parks-canada/news/2020/09/the-residential-school-system.html
Sixties Scoop - The Canadian Encyclopedia  https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sixties-scoop
The Indigenous Foundation  https://www.theindigenousfoundation.org/articles/the-sixties-scoop\
Class action Sixties Scoop Settlement  https://sixtiesscoopsettlement.info/
National center for Truth and Reconciliation https://nctr.ca/records/reports/  https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf  
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child  https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf Government of Canada  https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/national-child-day/united-nations-convention-rights-of-the-child.html
Convention on the Rights of the Child UNICEF https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention
Novel by Dr. Jacqueline Marie Maurice https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/
The National Enquiry into Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and girls  https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/artists/the-lost-children-a-nations-shame/

Please enjoy some of these pictures of Wayne Garnons-Williams keynote address :  


Presenting our first permanent Board of Directors:
Throughout 2020, based on the recommendations in the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation Survivor Engagement Report, we recruited the first permanent Survivor-led Board of Directors for the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation. Our first official Board of Directors represent compassion, strength, unity and healing.
November 12, 2020 Virtual Event
Official Launch of the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation and Board of Directors Announcement. Captions in French and English will be provided in the future, but for now, the video is available for viewing in its entirety.
Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
Minister Bennett shares remarks on the new permanent Board Members of the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation and their vital work to address the legacy of the Sixties Scoop.