The Sixties Scoop in Canada

Topics: First Nations, Social work, Social justice Pages: 13 (4143 words) Published: November 19, 2012
Critical Social Work
School of Social Work University of Windsor 401 Sunset Avenue Windsor, Ont. Canada N9B 3P4 Email: Website:

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Critical Social Work, 2010 Vol. 11 o. 1 11,
Online publication date: May 2010

53 Alston-O’Connor

The Sixties Scoop: Implications for Social Workers and Social Work Education Critical Social Work 11(1)
Emily Alston-O’Connor, BSW

Abstract This paper examines issues concerning First Nations peoples and the child welfare system, and their implications for social work today. It explores the Sixties Scoop to illustrate the devastating impact such policies and practices had on Aboriginal children, families and communities. Cultural genocide is part of this legacy. To deliver more culturally appropriate services, awareness about and acknowledgement of these mistakes can assist social workers to incorporate a social justice perspective into their practice with Aboriginal clients. As well, implications for social work education regarding professional training, curriculum content and course delivery by Aboriginal faculty members are highlighted The Sixties Scoop: Implications for Social Workers and Social Work Education Religious leaders and the government of Canada have apologized to First Nations peoples for the abusive experiences they endured in the residential school system. However, the closure of the residential schools did not end the attempt to assimilate Aboriginal children into mainstream Anglo-Canadian society through separation from their families. A sudden acceleration in child welfare workers removing Native children from their Aboriginal communities coincided with the dismantling of the church run education system. As the next painful chapter in the history of the colonization of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, the Sixties Scoop quickly evolved into an aggressive tool for assimilation and cultural genocide. Its legacy has implications for social work practice today. Origins of the Sixties Scoop Governments in the mid 20th century viewed Aboriginal people as “child-like creatures in constant need of the paternal care of the government. With guidance, they would gradually abandon their superstitious beliefs and barbaric behaviour and adopt civilization” (Titley, 1992, p.36). Segregated day and residential schools had failed to meet the goals of assimilation: most former students did not embrace the Euro-Canadian identity. The Parliamentary committee examining the Indian Act between 1946 and 1948 rejected the existing policy and proposed Critical Social Work, 2010 Vol. 11, No. 1

54 Alston-O’Connor

instead the integration of young Indians into public schools (Titley, 1992). Concurrently, the Department of Indian Affairs created agreements with the provinces to take primary responsibility for children’s general welfare within their own provincial agencies (Armitage, 1995). As residential schools became discredited, the child welfare system became the new agent of assimilation and colonization (Johnson, 1983). Returning to their reserves and bands, many residential school students felt alienated and overwhelmed. Growing up in the residential school system, Aboriginal children were not given role models to look up to. They were not shown affection nor taught how to love or care for others. They had few traditional child-rearing skills from their own parents and relatives to rely on (Armitage, 1995). This had detrimental effects on the families of survivors of the residential schools for the generations of children who followed (Fournier and Crey, 1997). During...
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