By Owen Charters
In a previous role, I helped craft the Order of Canada nomination for my organization’s board chair, Patrick Johnston. In pulling together the nomination, I did a lot of research about the Sixties Scoop, as Patrick had been a social worker and researcher who among many other accomplishments wrote a significant paper on the Scoop and brought the issue to prominence in the Canadian media.
Many of us have heard of residential schools and their travesty and tragedy—as well as the ongoing impact of these institutions—on generations of Indigenous children and families. But fewer of us may be aware of the ongoing removal of Indigenous children from their families and placing them “in care,” which is often foster care with other families.
In the 1960s, it was common practise to remove almost all newborn children on reserve from their mothers and place them into the child welfare system—to ‘scoop’ them. Patrick named this period the Sixties Scoop, and it is yet another indignity and abomination that this country has perpetuated on Indigenous families and communities. And the Scoop has not stopped. Today, Indigenous mothers often still have their babies taken from them by child welfare agencies and the battles to retain custody are frequent and many.
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) was established in the 1990s to connect Indigenous families and resources, and to ensure that Indigenous children can grow up supported at home, with their families. Executive Director (and former BGC Canada board member) Cindy Blackstock is a vocal advocate, speaking frequently about the needs of Indigenous families and children and exposing the ongoing disparities and failures of policy.
In the fall of 2021, FNCFCS won a significant legal victory. The Federal Court upheld a ruling to award compensation in response to ongoing underfunding of child welfare programs, for the unnecessary removal of Indigenous children from homes and families, and failing to uphold Jordan’s principle, which is a policy to ensure that funding flows to First Nations children no matter if various levels of government cannot agree on responsibility. This ruling will result in billions of dollars in compensation to more than 50,000 people.
Today, we honour and participate in Have A Heart Day, a campaign from FNCFCS to recognize and support Indigenous families and children and to continue to advocate for fair funding and supports. Our official statement in support of Have a Heart Day can be found here.
Have A Heart Day, Spirit Bear, and working with FNCFCS is one of many steps we can each take on the path of Reconciliation, a journey of lifting up all children and families and undoing the terrible legacy of residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and dismantling families.
Today and every day, show your support, learn and reflect, and join us in taking action.