An Act of Visibility
When a forgotten story in history is acknowledged, the people surrounding that story become more visible. Justice Edward Belobaba's recent ruling in favour of Ontario's Sixties Scoop survivors marks an historical act of visibility where Canada's dark colonial history is recognized as being one with many chapters and secrets. It is a case that calls attention to the scope of Canada's cultural assimilation of Aboriginal identity during the 20 th century, and shows that the residential school system represents a visible part of an iceberg with a mass of history still submerged. Stephen Harper's formal apology in June 2008 brought the hidden chapter of Canada's residential school system into the public eye, but as Canadians, we cannot think the history or the chapter ends there.
In an interview with Muskrat magazine, J'net Cavanagh, a Sixties Scoop survivor from the Ahousaht First Nations on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, remarks that Stephen Harper's formal apology was a huge moment of recognition and visibility for Canada's Aboriginal peoples, but she feels "the apology stopped short in acknowledging the aftermath of residential schools--as they phased them out, adoption and foster care went through the roof." She highlights the importance of understanding the residential school's inter-generational impact. The residential school's complex repercussions cannot be omitted from Canadian history, or be forgotten in Canadian conversation. We cannot think the racist and colonial attitudes that founded the residential schools were isolated to a specific part of the governmental system. These attitudes dispersed through many governmental programs, such as child welfare.
What is the "Sixties" Scoop?
Patrick Johnson, a researcher for the Canadian Council on Social Development, coined the term "Sixties Scoop" in a 1983 report that explored the mass apprehension of Aboriginal children from their homes and reserves and into Canadian and American child welfare systems during the 1960s. Johnson took the phrase from the comments of a provincial child-protection worker who noted that social workers "would literally scoop children from reserves on the slightest pretext." This "scooping" dramatically accelerated the over-representation of Aboriginal children in welfare systems. The children were removed with no consultation with the child's family or band and subsequently placed in non-Aboriginal adoptive and foster homes. These...