WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s Métis federation says its people are being left out of an apology to come this week for aboriginal children who were taken from their homes and placed with non-aboriginal families.
President David Chartrand said no one from the Manitoba government consulted with the Metis or formally invited him to the event set for Thursday at the legislature. The Métis were left out of the residential school settlement and it feels like the same thing is happening again, he said.
Manitoba appears to be blaming Ottawa for what is known as the ’60s Scoop when it was provincial social workers who seized aboriginal children and placed them with families as far away as the southern United States, Chartrand said in an interview.
“It’s the province that took our children. It’s the province that sold our children to the United States and other places. It’s the province that did harm to my families.
“Clearly we’re not going to let the province get away from this.”
Premier Greg Selinger is set to deliver an apology to aboriginal adoptees in what is thought to be the first by a Canadian province. The substance of the apology has not been released, but Selinger said it will acknowledge damage done to those taken from their homes and their culture.
Paul McKie, spokesman for Selinger, said numerous aboriginal organizations have been invited to witness the apology. The Manitoba Métis Federation was invited Friday by phone, by email and formally by letter, he said.
The province, along with affected adoptees, has been working on the apology for months, he said.
“Many people, groups and organizations have been invited,” McKie said. “There were informal consultations with many people.”
From the 1960s to the 1980s, thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their homes by child-welfare services and placed with non-aboriginal families. Adoptees have been fighting for recognition of their experience and a formal apology similar to that given to survivors of residential schools. Many have filed class-action lawsuits in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
An apology without a plan and proper consultation with those affected is empty, said Chartrand, who has worked with ’60s Scoop adoptees and their families for years.
“You can’t just say ’I’m sorry’ and walk away. You did permanent damage here. You tore entire communities apart. Maybe they’re thinking if they say ’I’m sorry’ that ends my responsibility.”
Grand Chief David Harper, with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak which represents northern First Nations, still remembers children being taken away from his community, never to be seen again. He said he will be there to witness the apology but will also be looking for more.
Many adoptees are still trying to find their roots, he said. They need counselling and help with repatriation, he said.
“I’m very glad that the premier is doing the honourable thing,” Harper said. “But words are one thing. Action is another. What kind of action is there for these people?”