Between 1965 and 1984, Canadian child protection workers removed more than 20,000 indigenous children from their homes on reserves and placed them in foster care or put them up for adoption without the consent of their families or bands. Almost all of these children were placed with white, middle class families, and were effectively stripped of their cultural identities. Many bounced from foster home to foster home, ran away, and developed addictions in order to cope. Some of these children were treated like slave labour and/or experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
The majority developed emotional problems later in life and had difficulty developing a strong sense of identity in either the Euro-Canadian or their indigenous cultures. Brent Mitchell, who was removed from his Ojibwe home near Sagkeeng First Nations, Manitoba when he was just a year old and moved to New Zealand with his foster parents when he was five where he endured emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
Brent Mitchell’s story clearly illustrates the complete lack of sensitivity, respect and consideration to aboriginal children to their culture and family. In the summer of 2017, we met Brent and his wife, Yolanda who traveled from New Zealand to Winnipeg, Manitoba. During the week we spent together, we witnessed the connection grow between Brent, his sister, Penny and brother, Ron as well as with their identity and culture.