Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jul 3 2015, Page 4

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - July 3, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE A4 A 4 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, JULY 3, 2015 TOP NEWS winnipegfreepress. com OUTDOOR POLY GLIDER SETS For year- round weather Handcrafted by Ontario Mennonites & Amish 124 ROBLIN BLVD. E. IN WINKLER 204.331.1415 MON TO THU 9 – 5: 30 • FRI 9 – 9 • SAT 9 – 5: 30 M ORE than 50 years after Peter Froese was taken from his mother on the Roseau River First Nation and adopted into a Mennonite family, he still doesn’t know why. There were whispers and hints his mother fled his abusive father, that she wasn’t able to care for him, that she mostly left him with his grandmother. But that’s all Froese has been able to glean over the years about how he came to be part of the thousands of indigenous children transferred to white families all over the continent during the Sixties Scoop. Like a growing number of children of the Sixties Scoop, Froese is requesting his adoption records now that the Manitoba government has unsealed them. Froese could have applied for a censored version years ago, and he’s already uncovered the names of his parents through his own sleuthing. But now he wants his full dossier — his original birth certificate, his medical history and especially any clues about why he was scooped. “ I’m hoping there’s something in there that can help me breathe a little easier,” he said. “ I’m 53, but there’s days I go back and I’m still looking for that same mother, looking at some lady pushing a cart downtown, these older aboriginal ladies, wondering if that’s my mom, especially at powwow.” Late last month, during a ceremony at the Manitoba legislature to mark the province’s formal apology for the Sixties Scoop, several adoptees said they were planning to ask for their records. Most, like Froese, already know the names of their parents, in part because they had just enough information a few calls to the band office netted phone numbers for aunts or cousins who filled in the rest. Instead, several said they still want to know why they were taken, what social workers wrote about them at the time and how the decision was justified. Some are also hoping to glean hints about where other siblings ended up. Shortly before last month’s apology, after a year- long phase- in, Manitoba joined many other provinces and opened roughly 50,000 adoption records, allowing birth parents and adoptees to request access to all their uncensored files. That will, in many cases, allow people to start tracking down long- lost children or birth parents. Janice Knight, the manager of adoption and post- adoption services, said the province has also created a kind of one- stop shop for children of the Sixties Scoop so adoptees don’t have to deal with two different jurisdictions — where they were born and where they were adopted. But, amid shelf after shelf of manila files in Knight’s records room, it’s impossible to know how many belong to children of the Sixties Scoop. Nationwide, an estimated 20,000 children were taken, often for meagre reasons, from indigenous homes and adopted into white ones across the continent between 1960 and 1980. The scoop is seen by many as the successor to the Indian residential school system and the harbinger of current child- welfare woes, where nearly all children in care in Manitoba are indigenous. At least two class- action lawsuits are underway — one out of Ontario and the other from Saskatchewan — and the records could also be useful if adoptees want to join one of those or seek eventual compensation, said Raven Sinclair, a University of Regina social work professor and expert on the scoop. But, along with other child- welfare experts, Sinclair warned adoption records may not be as enlightening as many hope. In many cases, records were poorly kept and even the documentation protocols in place at the time weren’t followed. Adoptees could get a multi- page summary of their social history that might explain why they were scooped, but they might get much less. And, some of the allegations or revelations in the file could be upsetting, even if they confirm an adoptee’s rudimentary understanding of why they were scooped. Froese is hoping to learn more about his father, a Quebec miner who took Froese and his mother to live briefly in Rouyn- Noranda. The man’s name was likely Onesime Toussaint, but calls to Toussaints in the area have come up empty. Froese knows more about his mother, Mildred, who died in the early 1980s before Froese could track her down. But it was just last year he got his hands on a photo of her. “ She looked like me — handsome,” he quipped. But her photo also brought tears as Froese recalled how much of his culture he’s lost and how he grew up with contempt for his people. He would love to know Mildred’s birthdate, which will likely be in his adoption file, and where she is buried, which may not. maryagnes. welch@ freepress. mb. ca Saturday in 49.8 THIS summer, hundreds of Manitobans will find out who their parents are. It’s basic information most people know and take for granted. But, for adoptees, the names of their mother and father may have been shrouded in family secrecy or hidden in government records. The Manitoba government has passed legislation unsealing 50,000 adoption records, allowing adoptees and birth parents to see the names that may help them track down long- lost family. The legislation came into force three weeks ago. Already, the province’s post- adoption office has mailed out dozens of records, and hundreds more are in the queue. For many, it’s going to be an emotional summer of reunions, revelations and reversals. In Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press , read more about adoption from several points of view, including a birth mother searching for her son, an adoptee looking for her birth father, two siblings hoping to find an older brother and one woman who says she’s just fine never knowing who her “ real” parents are. WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Peter Froese, who was caught up in the Sixties Scoop, holds a photo of his birth mother, Mildred Thomas, taken in the late 1960s and one of himself with the Froese family in 1963. Hoping to finally learn the truth Unsealed records could hold answers for Sixties Scoop adoptees By Mary Agnes Welch MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Janice Knight stands among thousands of adoption records that have been unsealed. IT was a happy Canada Day for 232 residents of Red Sucker Lake First Nation who were home safely in their community with their homes intact. The Red Sucker Lake residents were flown home Tuesday following three nights at a Winnipeg hotel. They had been evacuated on Saturday and Sunday for safety reasons due to the proximity of fires to their community, located about 700 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Fire crews from Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship successfully battled a blaze that came within one kilometre of the homes. “ They ( residents) are all back, and that fire has been dealt with. It’s definitely a positive when you can return everyone to their homes because nobody likes to be displaced,” said Gary Friesen, manager of the wildfire program with Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. “ Our crews just worked on it and put it out. We’re fighting new fires every day so that’s the goal, to get them when they’re small. When they’re big, they’re not only harder to put out but way more costly.” Most of the community of about 800 remained in their homes. The 232 individuals evacuated were mainly children, elderly people and those with medical conditions, ranked by priority according to information from health authorities and the community itself. Lodging for the group was paid for by the federal government while expenses for such basics as food, clothing, diapers, laundry facilities and medical care were covered in partnership by the Red Cross, Health Canada and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Red Cross spokesman Jason Small said the last flight returning Red Sucker Lake residents left Winnipeg at 4 p. m. Tuesday. Small noted the Red Cross has had an agreement in place since April 1 with the federal government to provide evacuation services to all First Nations. Friesen said there are still 70 active fires burning in Manitoba, nearly all of which were started by lightning. On Wednesday afternoon, firefighting crews from Quebec and Wisconsin arrived for additional support. There are now about 500 firefighters battling blazes in Manitoba. — with files from Aidan Geary and Jessica Botelho- Urbanski ashley. prest@ freepress. mb. ca Red Sucker Lake residents return home By Ashley Prest A_ 04_ Jul- 03- 15_ FP_ 01. indd A4 7/ 2/ 15 6: 40: 20 PM

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