The Sixties Scoop refers to a troubling period within the history of First Nations peoples and Canada, where Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes due to colonization and state policies.
The term “Sixties Scoop” was coined by Patrick Johnston in a report he published in 1983 on Indigenous children and the child welfare system (McKenzie, Varcoe, Browne, Day, 2016). The “Sixties Scoop” occurred from the 1960s to the 1980s when thousands of children were deemed to come from “unfit” homes and were thus placed within the welfare system or adopted to predominantly Caucasian, middle-class families (Stirrett, 2015, p. 1). Stirrett (2015) affirms that “coercive adoptions were executed by the settler-colonial state without the consent or knowledge of indigenous families or communities (p. 1).
This highlights the fact that colonial interventions have historically and intentionally undermined the political, economic and familial formations of Indigenous peoples (McKenzie et al., 2016, p. 1). The young and old of First Nations communities were treated as wards of the state where children could be controlled, and their parents did not have a say in the matter, further perpetuating colonization. Residential schools began to be phased out by the federal government after the Second World War, but this did not phase out the apprehension of Indigenous children (McKenzie et al.
, 2016). The next phase would be the removal of Indigenous children from their homes by child welfare workers and placing them with non-Indigenous families: The Sixties Scoop (McKenzie et al., 2016). As noted by McKenzie et al. (2016), state intervention of First Nations preceded the Second World War, but as Canada arrived at a crucial time for the formation of the Canadian state, sovereignty, and identity, perhaps the Indigenous family did not fit the mold of the “Canadian body politic” (p.2). At the same time, government-funded social services became more prominent across Canada which led to European-Canadians raising concerns about the disparity between services that were available off and on-reserve, and the Canadian Welfare Council along with the Canadian Association of Social Workers recommended changes to the Indian Act to the Senate and House of Commons in 1947 (McKenzie et al., 2016, p.
6). The recommended changes would see that Indigenous people living on reserves could access provincially-funded health, educational, and social services but the recommendations did not take into consideration the “effect that extending provincial services would have on Indian families and communities” (Johnston, 1983 as cited in McKenzie et al., 2016, p.
6). Due to the changes to the Indian Act in 1951, Status Indians were subjected to child welfare laws within the provincial laws (Indian Act, 1951; Johnston, 1983, as cited in McKenzie et al., 2016), and this set the stage for indiscriminate provincial intervention, leading to The Sixties Scoop (p. 6).