Sixties Scoop

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The term Sixties Scoop, a.k.a., Canada Scoops, refers to the Canadian practice, beginning in the 1960s and continuing until the late 1980s, of apprehending, a.k.a., physically 'scooping up', children of Aboriginal peoples in Canada and either keeping them within Canada and placing them in Indian residential schools,[1] or placing them in the United States and western Europe where they were in foster care or adopted, usually into non-aboriginal families.[2] It was coined by Patrick Johnston in his 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System.[3][4]

Reder (2007) reports that the adult adoptees who were the subjects of this program have eloquently spoken out about their losses: loss of their cultural identity, lost contact with their natural families, barred access from medical histories, and for status Indian children the loss of their status.[5]

An estimated 20,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families and fostered or adopted out to primary white middle-class families, some within Canada and some in the US or Western Europe.[6][7]

This government policy was discontinued in the mid-1980s, after Ontario chiefs passed resolutions against it and a Manitoba judicial inquiry harshly condemned it.[8] This judicial inquiry was headed by Justice Edwin Kimelman, who published the File Review Report. Report of the Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements (also known as the Kimelman Report).[9]

Two lawsuits have been filed in Canada by survivors of the Sixties Scoop, one in Ontario in 2010[10][11] and one in British Columbia in 2011.[12][13]


The residential school system was implemented by the Canadian government and was administered by various churches. The purpose was to educate aboriginal children to Euro-Canadian and Christian values so they could become part of mainstream society. The school system was in effect from 1880s and until the late 20th century. This system forced children to be removed from their families and homes for long and extended period of times. The policy of the schools forbade the children to speak their own languages or to acknowledge their culture in any way. Survivors of the residential schools have come forward and spoken out about physical, spiritual, sexual and psychological abuse they experienced from the staff of these schools. The lasting cultural impact has been widespread and extensive:

Residential schools systematically undermined Aboriginal culture across Canada and disrupted families for generations, severing the ties through which Aboriginal culture is taught and sustained, and contributing to a general loss of language and culture. Because they were removed from their families, many students grew up without experiencing a nurturing family life and without the knowledge and skills to raise their own families. The devastating effects of the residential schools are far-reaching and continue to have significant impact on Aboriginal communities. Because the government's and the churches’ intent was to eradicate all aspects of Aboriginal culture in these young people and interrupt its transmission from one generation to the next, the residential school system is commonly considered a form of cultural genocide.[14]

The Canadian government started to close the compulsory residential school system in the 1950s and 60s but it was the opinion of the government authorities at that time that Aboriginal children would benefit from a better education from the public school system.

This transition to provincial services led to a 1951 Indian Act amendment that enabled the Province to provide services to Aboriginal people where none existed federally. Child protection was one of these areas. In 1951, twenty-nine Aboriginal children were in provincial care in British Columbia; by 1964, that number was 1,466. Aboriginal children, who had comprised only 1 percent of all children in care, came to make up just over 34 percent.[15]

Johnston, while researching his report called Native Children and the Child Welfare System, collected statistical data from various stake holders within the community, including levels of government, aboriginal organizations and band council. Johnston was given the term "Sixties Scoop" by a social worker from British Columbia where she disclosed "with tears in her eyes – that it was common practice in BC in the mid-sixties to 'scoop' from their mothers on reserves almost all newly born children. She was crying because she realized – 20 years later – what a mistake that had been".[3]

In the Kimelman Report that was released in 1985 made the following observation about child welfare policies in that province:

The native people of Manitoba have charged that the interpretation of the term “best interest of the child” has been wrought with cultural bias in a system dominated by white, middle class workers, board of directors, administrators, lawyers and judges. They also alleged that in application of the legislation, there are many factors which are crucially important to the native people which have been ignored, misinterpreted, or simply not recognized by the child welfare system.[9]

Use of the term[edit]

Raven Sinclair, BA, CISW, BISW, MSW, PhD is an Associate Professor at the University of Regina and a member of Gordon First Nation. She wrote an article called Identity lost and found: Lessons from The Sixties Scoop. In this article she discusses the broadened context of the term sixties scoop:

At the same time as we may be alarmed by the statistics, it is important to recognize that the Sixties Scoop was not a specific child welfare program or policy. It names one segment of a larger period in Aboriginal child welfare history where, because questionable apprehensions and adoptions figured prominently, a label was applied. The “Sixties Scoop” has evolved as a descriptor that is now applied to the whole of the Aboriginal child welfare era, simplistically defined here as roughly the time from the waning of residential schools to the mid-1980s period of child welfare devolution and last closings of Indian residential schools.[16]

The white social worker, following on the heels of the missionary, the priest and the Indian agent, was convinced that the only hope for the salvation of the Indian people lay in the removal of their children.[16]

"Sixties Scoop" in Canadian media[edit]

The term has subsequently appeared several times in Canadian Media, as illustrated below:

"A new report shines a light on the "sixties scoop," where unusually high numbers of native children were put into foster care or adopted, usually by white families.[17] (CBC Radio Archives, 1993)

“Lawsuit filed for 'Sixties Scoop' kids,” (The Victoria Times Colonist, June 1, 2011) [18]

“The ‘Sixties Scoop’ is a term that refers to the phenomenon, beginning in the 1960s and carrying on until the 1980s, of unusually high numbers of children apprehended from their native families and fostered or adopted out, usually into white families...” (Reder, 2007)[19]

“Commonly referred to as the Sixties Scoop, the practice of removing large numbers of aboriginal children from their families and giving them over to white middle-class parents was discontinued in the mid-’80s..” (Eye Weekly, Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd.).[1]

Kimelman Report[edit]

The "Kimelman Report", titled No Quiet Place, was a strong critique or review of both the existing Child Welfare System in Manitoba and the practices of the social workers and agencies that were working within it.

Rather, it is believed that every level of personnel in the child welfare system has been so free of examination for so long that the least attention was viewed as negative criticism. Staff seemed unable to recognize that public examination of the system was long overdue. .[9]

The final report has 109 recommendations that range from cultural sensitivity, maintenance of family ties, formal training for professionals, structure of the system itself and having records being accessible on the computer. Kimelman went on to refer to the loss of the children as a “cultural genocide.” .[9]

Notable "scoops"[edit]

Richard Cardinal was a Metis child born in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. He entered the foster care system when he was four years old. While in the care of Alberta Child Welfare he had a total of 28 group care and foster placements, secured facilities and shelters. At age 17, Richard hanged himself on June 26, 1984. There is a film that was made about his story; Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Métis Child based on his personal diary and interviews with his brother Charlie and his foster parents.[20]

Sydney Dion is an aboriginal man from Manitoba who was adopted to the United States in 1971. The CBC 8th Fire features his story about coming back to Canada. Dion saved his money so he could find his family in Canada. When he arrived at the border, he was turned down: “they are aware that I was born here, but I am not a citizen here”. He did not have a Canadian birth certificate and his had been named changed, therefore he had no proof that he is a Canadian Citizen. On his second try to get into Canada he was allowed back as the border guard acknowledged that he was a minor when he was adopted and did not implicitly consent to becoming a United States resident, so he was allowed back to Canada without a passport.[21]

In 2012, Taber Gregory, an aboriginal man from Cold Lake Nation, Alberta, Canada became the first victim of Canada Scoops placed in the US to be recognized by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Canada. Based on recognition of his status as a victim of that particular genocide, Taber Gregory was then granted his US Citizenship expedited; his particular path to achieving US Citizenship on the basis of being a victim of a genocide may provide a model for future cases (National Archive of Canada, Truth & Reconciliation Commission - Canada, 2012)(Tim Fonataine, Aboriginal People Television Network, 2012).

Similar social developments in other countries[edit]

An event similar to the Sixties Scoop happened in Australia where Aboriginal children, sometimes referred to as the Stolen Generation, were removed from their families and placed into internment camps, orphanages and other institutions. A similar term, Baby Scoop Era refers to the period in United States history starting after the end of World War II and ending in 1972,[22] characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of forced adoption.[23]


  1. ^ a b Lyons, T. (2000)
  2. ^ J.S. Gregory, Susan Farley, & Darlene Auger, 2012. "Stolen Nation," in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
  3. ^ a b Native Children and the Child Welfare System. Canadian Council on Social Development. Ottawa, 1983
  4. ^ CBC Radio (March 12, 1983) "Stolen generations" Program: Our Native Land. Broadcast Date: March 12, 1983.
  5. ^ Reder, Deanna. (2007). Indian re ACT(ions). For Every ACTion - There's a Reaction. First Nations Studies Learning Object Model. University of British Columbia
  6. ^ Philp, Margaret (2002). "The Land of Lost Children", The Globe and Mail, Saturday, December 21, 2002,
  7. ^ Crey, Ernie, & Fournier, Suzanne (1998). Stolen From Our Embrace. The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. D&M Publishers Inc. ISBN 978-1-55054-661-3 Winner of the BC Book Prize Hubert-Evans Prize for Non-Fiction
  8. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). "Stolen Nation," in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
  9. ^ a b c d "No Quiet Place" Community Services, Winnipeg, 1985.
  10. ^ Chiefs of Ontario - UPDATE Preparation for Special Chiefs Assembly. 60s Scoop Litigation.
  11. ^ "Former CAS wards seek billions in lawsuit" Wawatay News, July 22, 2010, Volume 37, No. 15.
  12. ^ Fournier, Suzanne (2011). "B.C. natives sue federal government for millions over 'Sixties' Scoop'." The Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2011. Postmedia News.
  13. ^ "Aboriginal Sixties Scoop Class Action". Klein Lyons. 
  14. ^ Hanson, Erin. "The Residential School System". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  15. ^ Hanson, Erin. "Sixties Scoop". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Identity Lost and Found: Lessons from The Sixties Scoop,First Peoples Child and Family Review, 2007, p. 66
  17. ^ CBC Radio Archives (Print Edition, March 16, 2011). "Stolen Generations"
  18. ^ Lawsuit filed for 'Sixties Scoop' kids,” The Victoria Times-Colonist, Wednesday, June 1, 2011, Accessed 1 June 2011.
  19. ^ Reder, Deanna. (2007). Indian reACT(ions). For Every ACTion - There's a Reaction. First Nations Studies Learning Object Model. University of British Columbia
  20. ^ Obomsawin, Alanis (1986). "Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Metis Child". National Film Board. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  21. ^ "Hidden Colonial Legacy: 60's Scoop". CBC 8th fire. 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  22. ^ The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative
  23. ^ Fessler, A. (2006). The Girls Who Went Away; The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-094-7

External links[edit]