The term Sixties Scoop was coined by Patrick Johnston, author of the 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System. It refers to the large-scale removal or ‘scooping’ of Indigenous children from their families, communities and their culture into the child welfare system, in most cases without the consent of their families or bands. Almost all newly born children were removed from the care of their mothers and were placed in foster homes, and eventually adopted out to non-Indigenous (Euro-Canadian) families. Many of them faced physical, psychological and sexual abuse, and were made to feel ashamed of who they are. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission characterized the Sixties Scoop as a legacy of the residential school system.
Sixties Scoop Timeline
Amendments to the Indian Act give provinces jurisdiction over Indigenous child welfare. The government begins to phase out compulsory residential school education.
The sixties marked an exponential increase in the number of Indigenous children apprehended by child welfare authorities. Indigenous children were removed from their families, communities and their culture and placed in foster homes, and eventually adopted out to Euro-Canadian families. During this time, social workers were not required or expected to have training about the Indigenous communities they visited. Their values on what constitutes proper care were largely based on Euro-Canadian values.
By 1977, an estimated 15,500 Indigenous children in Canada were living in care. According to H. Philip Hepworth’s 1980 study entitled Foster Care and Adoption in Canada, Indigenous children represented 20 percent of all children living in care, even though Indigenous children made up less than 5 percent of the total child population. In western Canadian provinces, the proportion of Indigenous children is higher – 39 percent in British Columbia to 60 percent in Manitoba.
Patrick Johnston authored Native Children and the Child Welfare System where the term Sixties Scoop first appeared. During his research, he interviewed a retired social worker in British Columbia, who said that during the sixties, she and her colleagues “scooped” children from reserves “almost as a matter of course.”
Justice Edwin Kimelman releases a report entitled No Quiet Place concludes that “cultural genocide has taken place in a systematic, routine manner”. Many legislative changes are made following the reports of Patrick Johnston and Justice Edwin Kimmelman as well as the calls of Indigenous bands to amend provincial adoption laws. Some of the changes include requiring Band notification and prioritizing placements with extended family members.
A moratorium is placed on non-Indigenous families adopting Indigenous children in British Columbia, which was later replaced by an Exceptions committee to determine care plans.
BC passes the Child, Family and Community Services Act & the Adoption Act, both requiring greater inclusion of a child’s community and culture in decision making.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for Indigenous child welfare legislation that will address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also calls for national standards for Indigenous child apprehension and custody cases.
A summary report from engagement with Indigenous partners on reforming First Nations Child and Family Services program was published.
Approved in August 2018, the federal government has reached an agreement to commit $800 million to Sixties Scoop survivors. This agreement has been widely criticized because it does not account for abuses suffered and excludes non-Status and Métis survivors. In November 2018, the Government of Canada, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation leaders announced the co-development of potential federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare.
The government of Canada introduces Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.
To learn more about the Sixties Scoop:
Sinclair, R. (1). Identity lost and found: Lessons from the sixties scoop. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 3(1), 65-82. Retrieved from https://fpcfr.com/index.php/FPCFR/article/view/25
Sixties Scoop. (n.d.). Welcome to Indigenous Foundations. https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/sixties_scoop/
Sixties Scoop. (n.d.). The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sixties-scoop
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