US & Canada

Manitoba apologises to indigenous families for 'cultural loss'

Survivors of the 'Sixties Scoop' Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Survivors have taken some comfort in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report

The Canadian province of Manitoba has apologised to indigenous families for decades of forced adoptions.

Premier Greg Selinger said on Thursday the practice left "intergenerational scars and cultural loss".

The programme sought to integrate children into mainstream Canadian society, but in doing so rid them of their native culture.

The Canadian government apologised in 2008, but this is first time a province has taken responsibility.

"I hope that we can join together down a new path of reconciliation, healing and co-operation," Mr Selinger said. "There is a long road ahead of us. It takes time to heal great pain."

Hundreds of thousands of indigenous children were taken away from their parents by welfare services and put into the care of mostly white families between the 1960s and 1980s in Canada.

In some cases, the forced adoptions resulted in the rape and beatings of the indigenous children by their adoptive parents.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Justice Murray Sinclair called the apology 'meaningless' without action

Justice Murray Sinclair, head of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said he was happy about the apology, but if there is no action, it is meaningless.

The Commission's work recently concluded. Its report found rules that required Canadian aboriginals to attend state-funded church schools were responsible for "cultural genocide".

The group was created in 2006 as part of a $5bn (£3.3bn) class action settlement between the government, churches and the surviving students.

"The real question though is how are they going to change?" he said. "Everyone needs to accept the fact that they have been responsible for the perpetuation of the cultural genocide that we identified."

Survivors are still healing. Survivor Joseph Maud was separated from his family when he was five and sent to a Canadian residential school for indigenous students in Manitoba, he told the BBC.

The worst part was being separated from his parents, cousins, uncles and aunts, he said.

"I cried going down on my knees, and my thoughts were 'when is this going to end? Somebody help me,' calling out for my parents."

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