Moments after Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has offered an apology to survivors of the ’60s Scoop for failing them and leaving them “caught between two worlds,” the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations (FSIN) called for a moratorium on adoptions involving First Nations children.
“The apology is welcomed, however, there must be action along with these words. That means immediate and serious change as this is First Nations jurisdiction” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a statement. “Our First Nations children are still being ripped away from their families, communities and culture.
“This needs to stop immediately. This apology is empty if it is not followed through with action.”
On Monday, Saskatchewan became the third province to issue an apology to survivors.
“On behalf of the government of Saskatchewan and on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan, I stand before you today to apologize. I stand before you to say sorry,” Moe said at the legislature on Monday.
“We are sorry for the pain and the sadness that you have experienced. We are sorry for your loss of culture and language. And to all of those who lost contact with their family, we’re so sorry.”
About 20,000 Indigenous children were seized from their birth families and relocated to non-Indigenous homes starting in the 1950s until the late 1980s.
The practice stripped children of their language, culture and family ties.
Moe said the consequences are being felt to this day and he thanked the survivors, now adults, who told their stories at six sharing circles the government set up so that the province could better understand what happened.
“We are grateful for your candour and we are grateful for your courage,” he said.
Moe acknowledged that there “is nothing that we can offer that will fully restore what you have lost.”
“But what we can offer is the solemn assurance that government policies have changed and they continue to change.”
Some survivors said before the apology that they hoped it would come with action to reduce the number of children in care.
Survivor Kerry Opoonechaw-Bellegarde, 43, said she was hoping to ask Moe personally to improve the foster-care system.
The number of children in out-of-home care in Saskatchewan was over 5,200 at the end of September.
Survivor George Scheelhaase said the government is apologizing for something that’s still going on. Children in Saskatchewan are still being apprehended in record numbers, he said.
Alberta and Manitoba have already apologized for their role in the ’60s Scoop.
– with files from the Canadian Press