Premier Scott Moe has apologized for Saskatchewan’s role in the ‘60s Scoop – the infamous practice that saw tens of thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes, and placed in the care of largely white families.
It’s one of our nation’s most unsettling practices. A country that has prided itself on inclusion, tolerance and respect for others for so much of its history thought it was a good idea to take children from their homes, often for no other reason than their Indigenous background.
It’s a horrible example of racial profiling that carried on for nearly three decades. And while there were some Indigenous children who were able to experience better lives because of the homes they were relocated to, for most of them, it was a traumatic experience that carried consequences for the rest of their lives.
Imagine being ripped away from your family at a young age, even though nothing wrong was done, and being taken to a new home, where they lose their language and culture.
We can also imagine the reaction of some if the roles were reversed, and white children were ripped from their families and sent to Indigenous homes.
Hopefully we can all see the absurdity of this practice now, and understand why it should have never started in the first place.
It’s nice that Moe has offered an apology over the ‘60s Scoop. It’s likely an apology that was long overdue, especially since in Saskatchewan, it didn’t end with Indigenous people; it extended to Métis people as well.
The apology can only be the starting point. It’s imperative that the government take concrete steps to improve the lives of Indigenous people.
Reconciliation, at least in the framework, doesn’t appear to be the answer.
We’ve heard a lot about reconciliation between white people and Indigenous communities. In fact, it seems like reconciliation often feels like a buzz word now, rather than a concept.
Some of the measures for reconciliation, like apologies for the ‘60s Scoop and the disgraceful residential school program, have good intentions. Also marked with good intentions is the acknowledgement of being on Treaty 4 land at meetings and events. But will these apologies and acknowledgements make the lives of Indigenous people better? No.
And some of these reconciliation efforts, such as removing the statues of long-dead leaders who made invaluable contributions to our country, have only served to turn people off of reconciliation.
We’ve also see movements like Idle No More that have created awareness of the challenges facing Indigenous people, put haven’t proven to be effective in the long-term, in part because of the people at the helm of those movements, and in part because they didn’t have the follow-through necessary to succeed.
Indigenous people need more than apologies, more than acknowledgement of being on Treaty 4 land, and more than short-term movements with no long-term impact.
We also can’t just give Indigenous people a blank cheque, just like we can’t cut blank cheques for anybody else. The funding, the grants and the allocations that are directed to Indigenous communities need to be done with the proper due diligence, with the proper accountability measures, to ensure that it will be going to improve the lives of the people in those communities.
Saskatchewan is home to some very talented Indigenous people. An engaged Indigenous community that feels like they’re wanted, would go a long ways in correcting the issues facing many of these people.
Of course, they also have to do their part to be included.
In spite of all the work, all of the effort, all of the programs and all of the talk by governments at all levels, there hasn’t been a marked improvement in the lives of Indigenous people. They still face many of the same struggles that they have experienced for years.
An apology is nice. But an apology to ‘60s Scoop survivors, and some money to compensate those survivors for their pain, is just part of the solution.