The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal of Indigenous children from their birth families by provincial governments in Canada. While it reached its peak in the sixties, the informal policy lasted from 1951 until very recently.
Like most oppressive policies, this started as a seemingly innocuous and necessary minor change in legislation. As the government began phasing out compulsory residential school education in the 1950s and 1960s Indigenous students began to attend public schools which are funded and managed by the provincial government. At this time, provincial governments had little to do with Indigenous people as the BNA act mandates that “Indians and the Land reserved for Indians” are a federal responsibility. However, this transition to provincially managed education required funding and eventually led to a 1951 amendment that enabled the province to provide services to Indigenous people where none existed federally. One of the areas covered in the amendment was Child protection services.
An alarming number of Aboriginal children were apprehended from 1951 onward. By the 1970s, roughly one third of all children in care were Aboriginal. Approximately 70 percent of the children apprehended were placed into non-Aboriginal homes, many of them homes in which their heritage was denied.
In Saskatchewan, the policy was public and widely advertised. In 1967, as a solution to the growing number of Indigenous children in government care, Saskatchewan Social Services launched A.I.M.. The “Adopt Indian and Métis” program was intended to address the large numbers of Indigenous children in care as well as the decreasing number of caucasian children available for adoption. Along with newspaper ads, the department of social services ran TV spots for A.I.M. featuring happy Indigenous children in their new, loving homes. The campaign was considered a success. In spite of growing opposition in Indigenous communities, the program flourished and placed hundreds of Indigenous children with non-Indigenous couples.
On January 7th , 2019 Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe issued a public apology for the sixties scoop. The speech acknowledged the effects of the policy and shared specific survivor stories while maintaining a strong focus on moving forward.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there is an earnest and concerted effort underway in Saskatchewan to support and uplift all those in need, including our friends and neighbors still feeling the impact of the sixties scoop” , Premiere Scott Moe. Indigenous people are grateful for the apology and hopeful that action will follow.