From the 1960s up until the late 1980s, child welfare authorities in Canada took approximately 20,000 Aboriginal children and placed them in non-aboriginal homes. This has become known as the ‘60s scoop.’ Many see this as part of the oppressive, colonial system that supported the expansion of the residential school system in Canada, with devastating effects on Aboriginal families and communities.
On September 20 and 21, 2014 in Ottawa, approximately 100 people from every territory of Canada, and as far away as New York and New Zealand, attended the Bigiwen Indigenous Adoptee Gathering on unceeded Algonquin Territory. CUPE National Aboriginal Council Senator Dale Whitford attended the event on behalf of CUPE.
Adoptees gathered to share stories about their common experiences, which included being cut off from their culture, language and sense of belonging. As the organizers for event have stated: “Many adoptees felt isolated in their adoptive communities and many suffered tremendous physical, sexual, spiritual and emotional abuse. This experience essentially erased their connection to the land and their Indigenous identity. Indigenous adoptees have faced further barriers connecting with their heritage; accessing their adoption records which have been sealed so they can’t find their birth families or nation; many do not speak their Indigenous language; and many are struggling with the lasting effects of the trauma.”
CUPE’s participation in the gathering was an important aspect of our work on connecting with community organizations to speak out on common goals and human rights issues. CUPE National Aboriginal Council Senator Dale Whitford stated “This is such a huge issue that has never come forward like this before – we need to educate our members on this issue as it affects many of our own members among the union’s Aboriginal membership.”