National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Assembly of First Nations
55 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 6L5
February 19 2017
Dear National Chief,
Thank you for your recent statement “Children of the Sixties Scoop deserve justice, healing and reconciliation” on February 14, 2017. The National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network (NISCWN) formerly known as BiGiwen Indigenous Adoptee Gathering, began our work in earnest in 2014 in Ottawa, ON. Led by a few local Sixties Scoop adoptees, our goal was to bring adoptees together to share our stories, validate each other’s experiences, and work towards healing grounded in our Indigenous traditions. Our first gathering was a resounding success as 65 adoptees came together in Ottawa from all over Turtle Island to build capacity, share stories, and begin the long process of healing inter-generational wounds and trauma. In August 2015 we held our 2nd gathering for Sixties Scoop adoptees, foster care survivors, and their families. With the help of trusted Elders and community facilitators, we utilized land-based ceremonies to lead the healing work. At that time we reached out to AFN for support but your office could not accommodate us but thank you for offering. Our 3rd gathering is planned for fall 2017.
The National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network (“the Network”) is writing this letter to request a meeting with you in light of the recent judicial decision on the Ontario class-action lawsuit on behalf of Sixties Scoop adoptees. Also, given Minister Bennett’s statement on her willingness to engage in negotiations with adoptees, a meeting would be especially timely. During the meeting we would like to discuss and brief you on our work, how the Sixties Scoop has impacted our lives, the work that needs to be done across Turtle Island for healing and reconciliation, and ways that NGO’s Chiefs, and advisors can provided necessary support and expertise.
The Network is unique, as it’s the only community-based adoptee-led organization working with Sixties Scoop adoptees & foster care survivors. We’re intimately connected to hundreds of adoptees across Canada, the US, and overseas. Urban and rural First Nations, Metis and Inuit adoptees & foster care survivors who have reached out to us over the years for support, advocacy, resources and friendship. One common heartbreak and concern we hear from adoptees who’ve been taken away from their communities is that our Chiefs and First Nation communities have not supported our repatriations nor welcomed us back into the circle.
Our central concern in working towards a national resolution to ongoing litigation is that all impacted adoptees and foster care survivors are not just included, but centred and prioritized, in any discussions about their cultural losses and in strategizing ways forward. It’s vital that our voices are heard since it’s the survivors who know the impacts of the Sixties Scoop the best because we speak to it from our lived experiences.
Although the Ontario class-action lawsuit judgement is one small victory, thousands of adoptees and foster care survivors are once again emotionally triggered by these announcements with reverberations being felt across the nation and beyond. Survivors do not want to be excluded from conversations about us, and together with the Assembly of First Nations the Network wants to ensure that all our voices are represented at the negotiation table, while we continue the critical work of raising awareness about the Sixties Scoop nationally and internationally.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Colleen Hele- Cardinal, Duane Morrisseau-Beck, Elaine Kicknosway
Backgrounder on National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network
The NISCWN, was formed in September 2016, as a national voice to (a) Provide a national forum for the members of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network to express their needs and concerns on behalf of Indigenous people affected by Indigenous Child Removal Systems in Canada; (b) Ensure access to services for Indigenous people affected by Indigenous Child Removal Systems in Canada; and (c) Provide relevant, accurate and up-to-date information to Indigenous people affected by Indigenous Child Removal Systems in Canada. For more information on who we are and what we do, go to www.indigenousadoptee.com.