A procession makes its way through the Alberta Legislature before Alberta Premier Rachel Notley apologizes to survivors and families of the Sixties Scoop in Edmonton on Monday May 28, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

‘We are sorry:’ Alberta premier formally apologizes to ’60s Scoop survivors

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley apologizes to survivors and families of the Sixties Scoop in Edmonton on Monday

Premier Rachel Notley has formally apologized for Alberta’s role in the ’60s Scoop, and although survivors say that doesn’t close the book on one of Canada’s darkest episodes, they say it does open a new chapter of reconciliation and healing.

“We are sorry,” Notley said in the legislature Monday as survivors sat in the gallery, some wiping away tears.

“For the loss of families, stability, of love, we are sorry. For the loss of identity, language and culture, we are sorry. For the loneliness, the anger, the confusion and the frustration, we are sorry.

“For the government practice that left you, Indigenous people, estranged from your families and your communities and your history, we are sorry. For this trauma, this pain, this suffering, alienation and sadness, we are sorry.

“To all of you, I am sorry.”

Related:Federal judge approves $875M ’60s Scoop settlement after hearings

Related:’60s Scoop group educates survivors, pushes rejection of federal settlement

From the 1950s to the late 1980s, about 20,000 Indigenous children were seized from their birth families and relocated to non-Indigenous homes, stripping the children of their language, traditions and family ties.

The apprehensions peaked in the 1960s, giving rise to the term ’60s Scoop.

Alberta becomes the second province to acknowledge its role and to seek to make amends. Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger apologized on behalf of that province in 2015.

Alberta’s apology comes after a provincewide consultation during which, Notley said, some 800 survivors shared their stories. Many are still dealing with emotional trauma, which has been compared to that of residential school survivors.

Notley said their experiences are heartbreaking.

“Children, kids, babies, toddlers, teens ripped from your families,” Notley said. “Parents, unable to see through the tears as they took your children away from you. Grandparents, forced aside as your families were destroyed.”

“It is no wonder that it is so hard for so many of you to trust again.”

One of the survivors, Suzanne Wilkinson, travelled from British Columbia to hear the apology.

She said the pain of that separation reverberates for generations. Even when family members reunite, some emotional wounds cannot be healed, she said.

“If you take all the children out of a family and all the children out of communities, it just rips the communities apart and they disintegrate.”

Sharon Gladue, another survivor, remembers a childhood in Saskatchewan living near a river, her father hunting for their food.

“We were happy. We had children to play with,” said Gladue.

She said that ended when case workers came and took the children away because the house didn’t have running water or electricity.

In the end, Gladue said, ’60s Scoop children end up caught between two cultures, sometimes a stranger in both.

“It’s a catch-22,” said Gladue. “When you’re trying to reconnect with your families, you sometimes get ostracized from those communities.”

Adam North Peigan, president of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta, formally accepted the apology. He later told 200 supporters on the steps of the legislature that the work goes on.

“We were robbed of our culture. We were robbed of our language. We were robbed of our traditions and communities as well as our identity as Indigenous people,” said North Peigan.

“Today will mark the beginning of the road of reconciliation.”

In her speech to the legislature, Notley told survivors the province promises to work in the spirit of reconciliation and consultation in the future.

“Together we can help heal the wounds of the past.”

Related: Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Related: Trudeau apologizes to excluded residential school students

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Nelson Reflections win at synchro provincials

Nelson’s synchronized swimming team triumphed at the Jean Peters Provincial Championship

Here we go again: Mamma Mia! set to open at the Capitol Theatre

The ABBA-inspired musical runs Thursday to Sunday

LETTERS: The other side of the Women’s Centre story

From readers Vita Luthmers and Hannah Hadikin

Nelson holds the line on property taxes

No increase this year thanks to deal with RDCK on park funding

West Kootenay opinion sought on health care issues

Rural Evidence Review getting strong response to survey call-out

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

Improve your life and theirs, adopt a cat from the BC SPCA

The BC SPCA holds an adult cat adoption promotion

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Nevada court orders former Vancouver man to pay back $21.7M to investors

The commission says Michael Lathigee committed fraud over a decade ago

Most Read