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Truth and Reconciliation

This guide aims to direct child welfare staff to resources that will enhance their understandings of colonial policies that impact Indigenous families and communities and illustrate pathways to allyship.

“So why is it important to understand the history of genocide in Canada? Because it’s not history. Today’s racist government laws, policies and actions have proven to be just as deadly for Indigenous peoples as the genocidal acts of the past.”

– Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer, professor, activist, and politician 
(National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (Canada) et al. 2019, 53).

The Indian Act

“[The Indian Act] has… deprived us of our independence, our dignity, our self-respect and our responsibility.”

- Kaherine June Delisle, Kanien’kehaka First Nation Kahnawake (Assembly of First Nations, n.d)

“Historically, control over First Nations was a British responsibility that passed to Canada after Confederation. As the fur trade ended, First Nations peoples were increasingly seen as a barrier to government plans for the settlement of western Canada. The Government called it “the Indian problem”. The Government responded to this “problem” by creating the Indian Act.” (Assembly of First Nations, n.d.)

The Indian Act was created in 1876 as a means of extinguishing any existing Indigenous self-government structures. It is a Canadian federal law that governs in matters concerning Indian status, bands, and Indian reserves. The act authorizes the Canadian government to regulate the everyday lives and affairs of registered Indians and reserve communities. As per the UBC developed website "Indigenous Foundations", this authority ranged from:

  • “Overarching political control such as imposing government structures on Aboriginal communities.
  • The ability to determine the land base of these groups in the form of reserves.
  • To define and control who qualifies as an Indian (in the form of Indian status).”

For more information on the Indian Act and its present implication, this timeline provides an outlook on the different measures that have stemmed from the Indian Act from 1876-2017. You can visit this page to view amendments to the Indian Act and differences between registration under the Indian Act and the Indian Register, and this page offers information on what the Government of Canada is doing to connect with persons who are affected by Bill S-3's successful removal of known sex-based inequities in registration under the Indian Act. 

Residential and Day School Systems

"In the 1880s, a partnership formed between the Crown and various Christian churches to develop and implement residential schools throughout Canada. Residential schools were designed to assimilate Indigenous children’s culture into the emerging culture of Euro-Canada. This assimilation was meant to be achieved by replacing Indigenous languages with English, Indigenous spirituality with Christianity, and Indigenous people’s inherent right to territory with sedentary living and a capitalist economy. For more than a century, residential schools operated as a joint venture between the Crown and churches as Canada’s central institution for the assimilation of Indigenous children. These children who were Haudenosaunee, Cree, Blackfoot, Squamish, Haida and so many other distinct Indigenous cultures and nations were assimilated into Indians, a new category of colonial subject legislated through Canada's Indian Act," (Crowe, A. et al, 2021, p. 1)

The stated goal of residential schools was to "kill the Indian in the child" as a means to "civilize" Indigenous children. About 150,000 children went through the residential school system. When the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report was published, Murray Sinclair said that more than 6000 children died as a result of the residential school system. However, after the discovery of the remains of 215 children were found in an unmarked and undocumented burial site at the former grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in 2021, Sinclair states that the true figure could be in the 15-25,000 range, and maybe even more (CBC, 2021). 

The "historic", intergenerational, and collective oppression of Indigenous people continues to this day and takes on many different forms including, but not limited to: 

  • marginalization and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ peoples;
  • land disputes;
  • over-incarceration;
  • lack of housing; and,
  • ultimately, over-representation in the child welfare system (Indigenous Foundations, 2020)

More Information

To read more about the Kamloops Indian Residential School discovery, please visit the reports section of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website. 

Sixties Scoop

As per Raven Sinclair, the "Sixties Scoop" took place between 1960 and the mid-1980s and describes a period wherein thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forcibly removed from their families by child welfare services and placed in non-Indigenous environments. In many instances, these children were apprehended without the knowledge or consent from their families and bands. The term Sixties Scoop came to be through an interview with a BC social worker who expressed that "it was common practice in BC in the mid-sixties to “scoop” from their mothers on reserves almost all newly born children".

The above video outlines the experiences of Sixties Scoop survivors. One of the survivors, Crystal Sinclair, recounts their time in a non-Indigenous foster home as being strict, having lots of religious indoctrination and ultimately, leaving "no room for [their] culture or for anything about [them]". Crystal further explained that the "adults were deliberately racist, would say awful things and degrade [them] ... and [they] felt they had no one". 

Research found that there was a clear link between negative outcomes of Indigenous transracial adoption to the socio-cultural context of racism in Canadian society. Moreover, as seen through Crystal Sinclair's story, intra-familial racism was high and extremely damaging to adoptee' sense of self worth and sense of belonging (p. 299). 

The Sixties Scoop is seen as a continuation of the residential school experience carried out in the name of child protection rather than education. There continues to be an overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system which has led to the assertion that the Sixties Scoop has merely evolved into the Millennium Scoop.

More Information

To learn more, you can watch this video that details the events of the Sixties Scoop. Similarly, this video allows Sixties Scoop survivors to speak on their experiences as adoptees during this time. 

This resource by the Indigenous Foundation also provides an overview of the Sixties Scoop, as well as the impact it had on survivors. 

Millennium Scoop/Over-representation in Child Welfare system

As per this publication, the Millennium Scoop is an epilogue to the systematic removal of children during the Sixties Scoop. Despite the policies implemented after the "conclusion" of the Sixties Scoop, as stated in a Government of Canada publication, 53.8% of children in foster care are Indigenous, but account for only 7.7% of the child population, according to Census 2021. 

Indigenous children continue to be overrepresented in the child welfare system, leading many to believe that the "foster care system is working the way it's designed: as a machine to destroy Indigeneity" (Jaye Simpson, as cited by CBC). 

The Millennium Scoop is another signal that the child welfare system must change and recognize that "Indigenous peoples are in the best position to make decisions for children in their communities and lead the development of child welfare laws, policies, research, and practice for their communities," (First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada, 2019)

More Information