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Sixties Scoop: a Mi’kmaq survival story

Roseland Labrador is one of many East Coasters applying for their share of the Sixties Scoop settlement

3 min read
caption A Mi'kmaq flag flies over unceded and unsurrendered Mi'kmaq territory.
Laura Hardy

Roseland Labrador remembers the moment she decided to run away from her foster home at the age of 15. Her foster mother was screaming at her — and after six years of abuse, she’d had enough. She walked out the door to Highway 102.

Within 24 hours, the Indigenous teen had been sexually assaulted twice and stabbed.

Labrador was one of more than 50 people who attended a Sixties Scoop settlement information meeting on Thursday — more than expected by meeting organizers.

Last year, courts approved a $875-million payment to Indigenous survivors who lost their cultural identity after being taken from their families as children. It is estimated that more than 20,000 children were placed in non-Indigenous homes between 1951 and 1991, a phenomenon known as the Sixties Scoop.

Labrador was one of them.

The 62-year-old Mi’kmaq woman says she lost her cultural identity because of the Sixties Scoop.

When Labrador was seven, she and her brother were taken from their home in Indian Brook, just outside of Halifax, and sent to a residential school. The school closed just before she turned nine.

After it closed, she and her brother were waiting for a bus to take them back home. Instead, a social worker picked them up and took them to a foster home in Elmsdale.

When they arrived, five of her 14 other siblings were there. During their years there, she said, they were physically and psychologically abused.

“I had to try to protect them — and I couldn’t,” Labrador said in an interview, while choking back tears. “I was only nine years old myself.”

When it finally got to be too much she ran away.

When Labrador left the house, she walked to the highway and sat on the bank of a ditch before falling asleep. When she woke up, she began hitchhiking to Halifax.

She was looking for a girl she knew who lived in the city. When asking around about the girl she put her trust in two different men. That was when she was assaulted.

“I had just turned 15. I was naive. I was a baby,” Labrador said.

She spent the next eight weeks living on the streets of Halifax before making her way to Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia social services found her there and put her on a bus to a new foster home in Windsor.

“I could’ve run at anytime, but I was tired. I was hungry and had no change of clothes,” Labrador said.

She ended up being removed from that home and placed in another in the same area. A few months later she married and moved out.

Even though Labrador knew her family, all she knows of her culture is what she’s learned as an adult.

Eventually, Labrador moved to British Columbia, where she lived for 37 years. While living there she worked as a youth and child care worker, specializing in family violence.

She believes her ancestors led her to this career.

“I knew I had to work in those fields and try to help parents who had real dysfunctions,” said Labrador.

Now retired, Labrador still has nightmares about her experiences, and what she saw throughout her work.

Filing a claim

The Thursday session was one of 21 organized by Collectiva, a court-appointed claims administrator.

Organizer Jane Gray expected a lower turnout at the meeting, which was the only one scheduled for the Maritimes. Extra chairs were needed to accommodate the crowd.

Everyone who attended the meeting was urged to file a claim.

“If you have any doubt, just file a claim,” said Mélanie Vincent, one of the organizers for Collectiva. “Just do it.”

Vincent said that as long as Collectiva has the proper name, address, phone number and signature, the claim can be processed. They can also consent for the organization to look for missing files by checking a box at the bottom of the form. No specific information will be given to Collectiva, only whether or not the claimant is eligible.

Claims can be processed with minimal information, but organizers encouraged attendees to share any memories and stories they have. They said the stories may help find missing information.

Each survivor may be eligible to receive up to $50,000, but the amount will depend on how many people file claims.

Thursday’s meeting was the only information session planned for the Maritimes, but there will be a taped session posted online. Those with questions can call 1-844-287-4270 for more information.

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  1. R

    Roseland Labrador

    True of thousands and thousands...the horror is still alive right at this never goes away. My culture and my language was stripped from me,my culture as family are forever gone though 11 of us are alive...the rift is too wide,deep,and forever gone. The realization that I won't get to have my brothers and sisters as family is extremely sad. Not able to speak,feel and live my language is shaming and humiliating. My culture,I 've learned is just a pebble of sand. The residential school,the sixties scoop and Canadian people and government stole,stripped me of two very key ingredients of being mikmaq...
    • P

      Patsy Day

      Is there an online group for sharing our experiences?
      • R

        Roseland Labrador

        Hi party...not that I'm aware of it but it's a great Idea
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