The Toronto Star ran a story (March 16) entitled Nation of Lost Souls that begins with a profile of Marcia Martel. She’s in her forties now, but the story begins with a four-year old taken from her mother, from her family, from her community. She’s swept up by provincial child welfare authorities and put into foster homes in the south where she is expected to forget who she is, what she is, her people, her language, her culture. She grows up Cree but in name only. She is expected to be white on the inside, but will forever be seen as Indian on the outside with all of the negatives that implies.
The story refers to the Sixties Scoop, a massive and destructive intervention by provincial child welfare authorities that one Manitoba judge described as nothing less than “cultural genocide” more than twenty years ago. Still, the story goes on, the scoop continues perhaps with even more vigour today. It’s also about some of those kids fighting back by joining a class-action suit asking for damages for what the government’s authorities have done – and continue to do – to them.
It’s about time.
“We are still struggling with (child welfare) workers who come into our communities and take our children without consultation,” says Arthur Moore, chief of the Constance Lake First Nation, himself a church school survivor. “They have too much power and think we’re not capable of looking after our own children.”
Adds Chief Keeter Corston, of the Chapleau Cree First Nation: “Marcia’s story isn’t an isolated incident. They didn’t think of her as a person. It’s genocide in terms of breaking down a people morally and hoping they will just disappear.”