Sixties Scoop and Child Apprehension


Up until the 1950s, there were discrepanices between federal and provincial responsibility for First Nations health and family services. This jurisdictional grey-area led to conflicts over which governing body was responsible for the provision of these services to First Nations youth and families. The Federal and Provincial governments decided that the responsiblity over health and family welfare fell to the provinces.

"The process began in 1951, when amendments to the Indian Act gave the provinces jurisdiction over Indigenous child welfare (Section 88) where none existed federally...With no additional financial resources, provincial agencies in 1951 inherited a litany of issues surrounding children and child welfare in Indigenous communities. With many communities under-serviced, under-resourced and under the control of the Indian Act, provincial child welfare agencies chose to remove children from their homes rather than provide community resources and supports." Sinclair, Niigaanwewidam James, and Sharon Dainard. "Sixties Scoop." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. November 13, 2020. 

It was through the provincial child welfare agencies that Indigenous youth were apprehended and placed into non-Indigenous families and child welfare programs. The Federal Government claimed no fiduciary obligation or responsibility to Métis families and children, and thus the provincies were responsible. The apprehension of Indigenous children and youth from their families and communities came to be known as the “Sixties Scoop.”  Indigenous children were stolen from their families and communities, and adopted into predominantly white, middle-class families. Despite its name, "Scooping" Indigenous children from their families and communities was not isolated to the 1960s; the practices continued both before and after the 1960s, some of these practices continue today. This is demonstrated in the disproportionately high rates of Indigenous children caught within the Child Welfare System. 

"It is well-known that Indigenous children are over-represented in both the child protection and justice systems in Saskatchewan and across Canada. Year after year, the deaths and injuries we review are a stark reminder of this dark reality. In 2021, 22 of the 24 deaths (92%) and 23 of the 29 critical injuries/incidents (79%) that came to our attention involved Indigenous children and youth." (Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth, 2021 Annual Report, 34).

Indigenous Children in Care (Child Welfare), 2019


 As of 2019, Saskatchewan Social Services Ministry reported that 86% of children in care are Indigenous (Global News). Statistics Canada reported that in 2016, Indigenous peoples represented 16.3% of Saskatchewan's total population (Statistics Canada, Focus on Geography Series, 2016).  

The Sixties Scoop experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.

In Saskatchewan, particularly the Northern region, Indigenous children were taken or ‘scooped’ from their communities and generally relocated to white families in colonial settlements. Under the administration of the provincial CCF (the pre-cursor to the NDP), scooping children from the North was deemed necessary because Northern foster care was  reportedly unable to meet capacity. But of course, scooping Indigenous children from their home communities fostered a social and cultural disconnect that aligned with Canada's ultimate goal of assimliation and cultural homogeny. Scooping children contributed to assimilation by disconnecting Indigenous youth from their ancestral lands, families, communities, resources, and livelihoods. Many Indigenous children who were scooped at birth or an early age were not told of their relocation or Indigenous kinship by their adoptive guardians, and only found out later in life.     

"The department of Indigenous Affairs indicates that the number of Indigenous children adopted between 1960 and 1990 was 11,132. However, more recent research suggests upwards of more than 20,000 First NationMétis and Inuit children were removed from their homes. Many children were also sent abroad, some as far away as New Zealand. Depending on the source, in 1981 alone, 45 to 55 per cent of children were adopted by American families." Sinclair, Niigaanwewidam James, and Sharon Dainard. "Sixties Scoop." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. November 13, 2020. 

Newspaper advertisements for the Adopt Indian and Métis Program, late 1960s, Saskatchewan.

"The long-lasting effects of the Sixties Scoop on adult adoptees are considerable, ranging from a loss of cultural identity to low self-esteem and feelings of shame, loneliness and confusion. Since birth records could not be opened unless both the child and parent consented, many adoptees learned about their true heritage late in life, causing frustration and emotional distress. While some adoptees were placed in homes with loving and supportive people, they could not provide culturally specific education and experiences essential to the creation of healthy, Indigenous identities. Some adoptees also reported sexual, physical and other abuse. These varied experiences and feelings led to long-term challenges with the health and livelihood of the adoptees. As a result, beginning in the 1990s, class action lawsuits against provincial governments have been pursued in OntarioAlbertaSaskatchewan and Manitoba, and are still before the courts." Sinclair, Niigaanwewidam James, and Sharon Dainard. "Sixties Scoop." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. November 13, 2020. 

Indigenous parents and their children continue to report ‘scooping’ through child welfare services with further placement into the foster system. For example, scooping through the practice of Birth Alerts wherein hospital staff alerts child welfare services if they deem the child ‘at risk’ from their parents. Parents are not informed of the action nor provide consent. Birth Alerts have historically and contemporarily targeted Indigenous mothers, inaccurate and unfair characterizations have included being unfit, or disengaged from their child. Birth Alerts have allowed hospitals authority over who is deemed ‘fit’ to parent a child, and these decisions are often informed by systemic racism, classist assumptions, and racial stereotypes.      

See Also: 





Sit-in at Auditorium cafe in North Battleford


Servers at the Auditorium were told to refuse service to any Indigenous individuals that entered into the cafe. Two Indigenous men and three women from the Mistawasis reserve preceded to have a sit-in and refused to leave without an explanation as to why they were refused service. Eventually one of the employees admitted that they were not allowed to serve Indigenous peoples at the restaurant under the direction of the owner. Under Saskatchewan's antidiscrimination laws, the Auditorium was convicted and fined twenty-five dollars; a modern-day equivalent of 218 dollars. This demonstrates how racism and intolerance were intertwined within the settler mindset, and how it was common practice to refuse service to Indigenous peoples that was also reflected by the government.


Murder of Allan Thomas


A party of nine white men from the surrounding communities invaded a camp where Allan Thomas was living, near Glaslyn, Saskatchewan, and murdered him. These men destroyed the campsite, collapsing two tents, and fought with the Saulteaux community living there. The following day, men from the area were arrested and charged with non-capital murder. Many of these men arrested were considered respectable men within their communities, as their occupations included farming and business.




Impact of Housing Insecurity - Introductory Essay


The following essay provides a brief introduction on the effects caused by housing insecurity and poor quality housing, with attention paid to the disproportionate impacts for Indigenous peoples (see bibliography below):

The result of one hundred and fifty years of colonial government oppression has been the large number of Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) who live in poverty at levels below the LICO (Low Income Cut-Off). Indigenous peoples have been systematically disadvantaged by frequently being given the least productive reserves and farmland, being hindered by the pass system from selling the products of their labour, to work away from reserves for extended periods of time without losing their status, road allowances which kept Métis people impoverished, and the denial of economic and political self-determination due to paternalistic government policies. The cumulative effects of these and other assimilative government policies has been barriers to socioeconomic instability including unemployment, inaccessibility to education, poor health outcomes, addictions, and lateral violence.

Inaccessibility to affordable housing is fundamental to understanding these disparities, and creating access is imperative to establishing equity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike. Limited access to safe housing is something that affects multiple and frequently overlapping populations: immigrants, people with disabilities, working class people, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, people with addictions, people who have criminal records, youth who do not live with a parent/guardian, the elderly, queer and transgender people, single parents, and of course, people who are unhoused. In their pre-budget submission to the Department of Finance in 2003, the Assembly of First Nations noted, “The lack of quality housing contributes to social problems such as child poverty, suicide, low educational attainment, alcoholism, and family breakdowns” (Barnsley 2003).

Incidentally, aforementioned factors of poverty, unemployment, educational inaccessibility, lateral violence, and addictions are frequent experiences of those caught within the Canadian criminal justice system. This underscores the necessity for adequate and affordable housing for Indigenous peoples, and others who are prevented from it due to the value placed on ‘whiteness’ or lack thereof (“Aboriginal Housing Needs in Saskatoon: A Survey of SaskNative Rentals Clients” 2004, 2; La Prairie and Stenning 2003, 187).

Indigenous peoples in comparison to white settlers, statistically, are significantly more likely to experience trauma due to systemic factors such as the experience of racial discrimination in employment, education, policing, and acquisition of services/resources. Often, Indigenous peoples experience racial discrimination causing barriers to resources and services; this not only has immediate effects on a person’s state of wellbeing but may prevent them from accessing support in the future due to fear the discrimination will happen again. Example, an Indigenous single mother applies for a house rental, but she is denied during a viewing and the property owner is racist towards her. Going forward, the fear and anticipation that something will happen could prevent her from reaching out to support services, going places, applying for housing, etc.

For Indigenous persons trying to get out of poverty, they may experience a lack of financial resources or assistance in urban and rural areas, accompanied by increased policing in Indigenous communities (e.g.: the neighbourhoods of Riversdale and Pleasant Hill in Saskatoon have higher police surveillance than Evergreen or Avalon; according to former Judge Harold Johnson, northern Indigenous communities experience a high presence of RCMP surveillance). One example is existing provincial programs such as Social Housing, which have long waiting lists and are insufficiently equipped to accommodate the number of people in need. According to Campaign 2020, “For children in First Nations families, the poverty rate in 2016 was 49.4 per cent. Among those families indicating they were Métis, 28.4 percent were in low-income households.” (Campaign 2000, Saskatchewan Child and Family Poverty Report, 2020). As of 2021, over one quarter or 26.1% percent of children within Saskatchewan live under the poverty line, the highest representation of these come from single-mother households (Global News,, 2021).

Individuals living in poverty who are able to find housing may be limited to options that are overcrowded, or in poor repair. Young members of these groups may not have a sufficient number of safe spaces to spend their time, as community organizations and safe spaces that do not require money have limited funding, staff, and operating hours (e.g.: libraries, community halls and centres, EGADZ, shelters, The Lighthouse). For many of these community organizations, sobriety is mandatory for admittance creating another barrier to safe spaces for youth and adults. These difficulties can combine to create an overall sense of stress and frustration in surviving within urban surroundings, and in struggling to financially survive. The lack of support and resources can contribute to criminal justice system contact / re-contact. That is to say, the cumulative effects of settler colonialism and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous lands resulting in impoverished conditions leads to a higher rate of Indigenous peoples in contact with the criminal justice system. (“Saskatoon Aboriginal Neighbourhood Survey: A Survey of Aboriginal Households in City Neighbourhoods” 2004, 12; Newhouse 2003, 245; Trevethan 2003, 195).




  • “Aboriginal Housing Needs in Saskatoon: A Survey of SaskNative Rentals Clients.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Aboriginal People and Housing: An Exploration of the Perceptions of Saskatoon Habitat for Humanity.” Prepared by Katriona Hanna and Lori Hanson. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Aboriginal Post-Secondary Student Housing: Research Summary.” Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing, a Community-University Research Alliances Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Aboriginal Statistics at a Glance.” Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2010.
  • “Affordable Housing and Home Ownership: Business Case Development for the Saskatoon Market.” Prepared by Erin Foss, Research and Communications Assistant, Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association, Bridges and Foundations Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “A Time for Action: Aboriginal and Northern Housing.” Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Ottawa: House of Commons, 1992.
  • Barnsley, Paul. “The legacy of inadequate housing.” Windspeaker, 0834177X, Dec2003, Vol. 21, Issue 9.
  • Belanger, Yale D., Gabrielle Weasel Head, Alu Owosoga. “Housing and Aboriginal People in Urban Centres: A Quantitative Evaluation.” Aboriginal Policy Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2012): 4-25.
  • “Final Report.” Prepared for the Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing in Saskatoon: A Community University Research Alliance Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “First Nations Housing in Saskatoon: A Survey of Cress Housing Clients.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Fisher, Linda and Hannele Janetti. “Aboriginal Youth in the Criminal Justice System.” In Issues and Perspectives on Young Offenders in Canada, ed. John A. Winterdyk, 237 - 255. Toronto: Harcourt Brace and Company Canada, 1996.
  • La Prairie, Carol and Philip Stenning. “Exile on Main Street: Some Thoughts on Aboriginal Over-Representation in the Criminal Justice System.” In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 179-193. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “Migration and Mobility Between Reserve and City: A Survey of Whitecap Dakota/Sioux First Nation Residents in Saskatoon.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Affordable Housing Program Survey of Band Members”. Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Housing Committee. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. 2004.
  • Newhouse, David. “The Invisible Infrastructure: Urban Aboriginal Institutions and Organizations.” In In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 243-253. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • Pfefferle, Brian. “Gladue Sentencing: Uneasy Answers to the Hard Problem of Aboriginal Over-Incarceration.” Manitoba Law Journal Vol. 32, No. 2 (2008):113-43.
  • “Residential Urban Reserves: Issues and Options for Providing Adequate and Affordable Housing.” Prepared for the Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing in Saskatoon: A Community University Research Alliance Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Roach, Kent and Jonathan Rudin. “Gladue: The Judicial and Political Reception of a Promising Decision.” Canadian Journal of Criminology Vol. 42, No. 3 (July 2000):355-388.
  • “Saskatoon Aboriginal Neighbourhood Survey: A Survey of Aboriginal Households in City Neighbourhoods.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Siggner, Andrew J. “The Challenge of Measuring the Demographic and Socio-Economic Conditions of the Urban Aboriginal Population.” In Not Strangers in these Parts: Urban Aboriginal Peoples, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 119-130. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “Summary and Analysis of Bridges and Foundations: CURA.” Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing, a Community-University Research Alliances Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Survey of Urban Housing Needs of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Trevethan, Shelley. “Is there a Need for Aboriginal-Specific Programming for Aboriginal Offenders?” In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 195-200. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “The FSIN-Province of Saskatchewan Gaming Partnership: 1995-2002.” Partnerships in Urban Aboriginal Housing Projects: A Theoretical Perspective. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “The Health Effects of Housing and Community Infrastructure on Canadian Indian Reserves.” Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991.
  • “Urban First Nations Residential Development Manual.” Prepared for Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Bridges and Foundations Project by Jess Chhokar. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.





Racism in Health Care Services in La Ronge


The following is a selection from an article CBC Saskatchewan published in March 2022 on racism in healthcare, and contextualizes some of the current healthcare challenges Northern Communities are facing:  

Racism within the health-care system has prevented First Nations people from seeking and receiving proper care, according to Dr. Veronica McKinney, director of northern medical services at the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine.

‘We know there's huge disparities between the health care of Indigenous peoples and the general population of Saskatchewan,’ McKinney said. McKinney said the province lacks data on how widespread issues of racism are. She said there are many reasons why First Nations people haven't filed formal complaints when encountering racism in the system. People don't know who to contact or their complaints can get bounced around between sectors, often creating more harm or shame, she said. 

‘[People are] asked to repeat their stories over and over and over again. When you think about it for these things to happen it's usually at the most vulnerable times of their lives — and it's usually something that's traumatizing for them,’ she said.

‘It's a very sort of disconnected system that really doesn't allow that patient's voice to be heard in a way that I think it should.’

She said First Nations people living in remote communities or ‘on the rez’ won't complain because they fear it will lead to repercussions for a family member who works at facility or will need to seek care themselves. She said people are afraid of driving away providers because recruitment to remote areas is difficult.  This leads people who have been harmed to stay silent. McKinney said this means little change within the system and a lot of distrust among First Nations people.

‘When they do require health care, they're only going up at the last minute when it's often a very desperate situation. Maybe there's a misdiagnosis of cancer and it's too late to really treat.’

Nothing is more alienating for patients who are vulnerable and needing care than experiencing discrimination, said Caroline Tait, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan who works with the Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre. For years she's conducted community-based research with First Nations and Métis communities. 

‘Feeling that people don't want you there, they don't like you.… There's lots of emotional, psychological fallout from that for people," Tait said. "They will avoid seeking treatments that they need.’

She said patients with chronic conditions have recurring treatments that they can't avoid, so they often won't report mistreatment because they fear punishment for being a ‘difficult patient’[…]

"It's very easy for people's experiences and their negative experiences with the health-care system to be dismissed."[i]

Historical Context

In an interview with Verna Richards via the Gabriel Dumont Institute, a La Ronge resident in the 1950s and 1960s, she communicated that the provided Indian Health Service doctor was both racist and conducted medical procedures without the use of contemporary medicine at the time, such as anesthetic.[ii] This abysmal care alienated the First Nations and Métis residents of La Ronge from their only community doctor, effectively removing access to healthcare.  

Mary-Ellen Kelm’s work details the policies, lack of ethics, and zero accountability structures inherent to the Indian Health Service. An insufficient policy and accountability structure in the Indian Health Service were two of the major issues causing service failures that affected Indigenous communities. The Department of Indian Affairs did not engage in an effort to recruit any Indian Health Service doctors in Northern Saskatchewan, opting to accept any doctor who applied. Kelm writes:

"In 1902, [the DIA] implemented a system of salaries that was intended to reduce medical costs. Doctors received the same payment whether they visited reserves once a year or as often as was necessary. If they rendered more services than could be paid for by their salaries, then they could submit accounts for further reimbursement. Extra remuneration, however, was seldom granted."[iii]

Doctors who served in the Indian Health Service were not supervised nor expected to report procedures to ensure the provision of ethical, appropriate care. An issue arose where doctors neglected their Indigenous patients in favour of white patients, who paid directly out of pocket. The financial incentive to visit the reserve as little as possible to maximize personal profit jeopardized health in Indigenous communities. Indian Health Services was used as a means of legitimizing colonial relations and paternalism within Canada:

"…aid given across cultures, where one society is seen as bearing knowledge vital to the ignorant other, buttresses notions of racial superiority and furthers the sense that relationships of dependency are natural and requisite. In this way, provision of medical services and the discourses surrounding it have aided in ideological formulations that are needed for the continuation of internal colonialism in this country. Non-Native medicine, then, also functioned as a legitimizer of colonial relations."[iv]

Indigenous peoples have and continue to practice their own medicines; Western medicine did not replace Indigenous medicines and ways of knowing. Arguably, there has been a great deal of damage caused by the imposition of Western medicine on Indigenous peoples. The disruption and demonization of Indigenous medicines, replaced with Western approaches contributes to health disparities and other systemic factors (cultural loss, dislocation, poverty etc.). Not only are the treatments not necessarily culturally relevant, but western practitioner’s biases towards Indigenous patients evidently create disparities in care.     

La Ronge resident Verna Richards (interviewed by Murray Dobbin, c. 1976) remembers that the resident doctor was outspokenly racist. Richards described that he would handle Indigenous residents in an unnecessarily rough manner. The maltreatment by the resident doctor alienated First Nations residents in La Ronge from health services, as he was the only Indian Health Doctor available in the region.

Verna: “...the doctor, the Indian health doctor that used to come up, he was such a racist pig, at that time. Well, the people called him the butcher, because he used to come up and pull teeth and that too, and he wouldn't even freeze your mouth - he'd just yank them out. There was one fellow that worked in the fish plant steady. He was quite, you know, sort of religious, and so he never drank. And he had cut himself with a knife at the fish plant when he was working and they flew him down to P.A. and he went to this doctor. And he sewed it up without freezing it and all the time he's getting after this guy. He says, "Yeah, you were probably out fighting and drunk. That's why you got cut." And he was very hurt when he came back that anyone would accuse him of being drunk and fighting because, you know, no way he would do that, because he was quite religious. And different things like this, this doctor used to do. So they would have to be half dead before they would go the doctor, because this was the only doctor that they had to go to.”

Murray: “So they knew what kind of treatment they would get?”

Verna: “And they knew. The girls, I used to get after them about, you know, looking after their teeth. And they said no way. In fact one girl, she had a cavity, she used to put Ambroid [a type of adhesive glue – one of the first synthetic cements] in the cavity and it used to burn the root, rather than go to the doctor and have it pulled it. She used to have toothache, and that is what she said she used to do. And I said, ‘My God, doesn't that hurt?’ ‘Well, just for a minute,’ she said. ‘But,’ she said, ‘I'm not going to that butcher.’”[v] 

Verna also recalled that after the implementation of Medicare, community members continued being referred only to Doctor Green (the Indian Health Service Doctor).[vi]

Verna: “… after I moved to P.A. You see, the native people still thought, after this was disbanded, that they still had to go to this doctor. And they didn't, they could go to any doctor they wanted to.”

Murray: “With Medicare?”

Verna: “Yeah [….] But still a lot of them used to come. And also he figured he could still get all the natives...”

Murray: “As patients?”

Verna: “As patients. And at one time he refused to go and see a baby that Berry [Richards] had brought down from the north, until Berry threatened him. And then finally he went to see the baby. You know, things like that. And in fact some of the native people now had a note, Dr. Jurdus had given this native person a note when he went to the hospital, and that was thrown in the garbage and Green was called.”

Murray: “Really?”

Verna: “Well, even the hospital staff was still referring all natives to this one doctor.”

Murray: “So Jurdus would give them a note saying that this person is suppose to see me, and they would just throw it in the garbage?”

 Verna: “Yeah, and then it would just go in the garbage and they'd call Green.”

Murray: “Did he treat white people that way, too?”

Verna: “No. Just native people. I guess he was just a racist.”[vii]

This section demonstrates the challenges that La Ronge and its associated LLRIB communities have experienced in acquiring healthcare which is fair, free of discrimination, culturally relevant, and kind. It demonstrates a century of negative experiences with healthcare, and how these systemic problems (underfunding, informal policies, disregard for patients and a lack of accountability, etc.) influence systemic factors for First Nations and Métis people.


[i] Latimer, Kendall. “Office for First Nations health complaints key to bettering Sask. system: researchers.” CBC News. March 7, 2022. 

[ii] Richards, Verna. Interviewed by Murray Dobbin, “Verna Richards interview on First Nations and Métis experiences of life in La Ronge, including the impacts of tourism and sexual assault.” Transcript. Gabriel Dumont Institute, Visual Museum Oral Histories Archive. July 12, 1977. Pg 23. http://www.Mé

[iii] Kelm, Mary-Ellen. Colonizing Bodies: Aboriginal Health and Healing in British Columbia 1900-50. Vancouver: UBC  Press, 1998. 111.

[iv] Kelm, Colonizing Bodies, 127.

[v] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 23.

[vi] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 24.

[vii] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 23-24.




Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Indigenous Women, Girls, 2-Spirit, and Transgender people


Indigenous survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking, community activists, and scholars document that coercion and deception are means of forcing Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and transgender people into survival sex work. In Saskatchewan, Saskatoon is considered a significant part of the transit corridor used within the Prairies to expedite trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous peoples. Notably, sex trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous people in Canada is so pervasive that it has not only received international news coverage (CNN - Canada's Stolen Daughters, attached Resources), the Canadian government has received international criticism from the U.S. government and United Nations, and national organizations, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Canadian Women's Foundation.

Survivors of sex trafficking, community advocates and scholars have discussed factors which increase the vulnerability of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and transgender people into trafficking. Experiences of abuse/violence; limited supervision; substance use/misuse; proximity to foster care; educational absence on information related to sexuality, contraception and pregnancy, models of healthy platonic and romantic relationships; overall lack of access to education; familial and communal residential/day school attendance, intergenerational trauma; housing insecurity and/or a lack of rental history; unemployment and job insecurity; a lack of culturally-appropriate support services (mental and spiritual health, medical, etc.); an absence of support networks (family/friends); having resided in a rural, northern or other isolated area where there may be a lack of infrastructure such as sewer, electrical or water services; lacking access to basic necessities for survival; and gang involvement. Many, if not all of these factors of vulnerability are linked to the settler colonial policies and beliefs which continue to oppress gender marginalized peoples.

In the aforementioned CNN Article "Canada's Stolen Daughters," Diane Redsky, who runs the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg (a Centre which engages in anti-trafficking advocacy work and runs a healing lodge) was interviewed. She commented:  "We're still in a society that targets Indigenous women and girls. In fact the national task force concluded that there's a market for Indigenous girls" (par. 28).

The psychological and physical impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking are described in the literature review and analysis released by the Native Women's Association of Canada, titled, "Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls":

"What can be gathered from looking at the span of the above statistics, both the 2005 and 2011, is that there is a solid continuation of traumatic and damaging experiences that Aboriginal women and girls experience both prior to being trafficked and in the life of being trafficked for sexual acts. Unfortunately, experiences of violence, various forms of abuse, and trauma seem to be very consistent and prevalent within human trafficking. One of the defining characteristics of Farley et al’s research is the examination of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in prostituted and sexually trafficked women. PTSD consists of three types of symptoms: persistent, intrusive re-introducing of trauma; numbing of responsiveness and persistent avoidance of stimuli of trauma; and persistent autonomic heightened arousal. Those who participated in the study completed an evaluation of criteria for PTSD. In a 2005 paper examining prostituted and trafficked women, out of the one hundred participants, including both First Nations and non-First Nations, 72% qualified for PTSD, which is 'among the highest reported in populations where PTSD has been studied, including battered women, combat veterans, childhood trauma survivors, rape survivors, and torture survivors' (Farley, Lynne, & Cotton, 2005, p. 255) . Those who are prostituted and sexually trafficked often experience extreme and intentional violence, abuse and torture. It is no surprise that these women and girls fulfill the criteria for PTSD. Such evidence suggests the difficulty of trying to move on from sexual exploitation, trafficking, and prostitution. It is a deeply traumatic experience that impacts on one’s physical self, the mental, and the emotional" (pages 10-11).

This excerpt from the Globe and Mail contains the testimony of a sex trafficking survivor as to the long-lasting impacts of PTSD in terms of her ability to function:

"But even if there is no physical evidence, illness and violence are so pervasive that, eventually, “trafficking will produce a health consequence,” says Tara Wilkie of the Surrey Memorial forensic team. Patients are provided with support after leaving the hospital, but Ms. Wilkie says the after-effects of trafficking can leave someone with lifelong physical and mental-health issues. Bridget Perrier seems to be living proof of this. As she sits on the couch of her Toronto home, phone buzzing, two dogs scampering around, pictures of her children on the wall, her old life seems like the distant past. Yet, she says, a decade of sexual exploitation “damaged me to a point where ... I have panic attacks. I have PTSD. I can’t have a baby naturally because my cervix is just shot. I sleep with the lights on. I’m hypervigilant. And there are flashbacks. “Sometimes a smell will set me off, gagging.” Pine-Sol, used to disinfect the rooms, “triggers it.” As do “certain male colognes, certain deodorants.” Also damaged: her relationship with others. She says her clientele was so predominantly white that, even today 'I can’t be on an elevator with a Caucasian man'" (pars. 85-90).

Regarding solutions for recovery from post-traumatic symptoms, including PTSD, the Native Women's Association of Canada literature review and analysis notes:

"Many who are sexually exploited and trafficked come from backgrounds where formal education and job skill development have been compromised from traumatic childhoods and growing up in abuse. To help these women and youth escape the cycle of sexual exploitation, they need training in viable alternatives for income. It is not enough to protect women and girls from pimps and traffickers; the conditions of growing up in poverty and without a full education must also be addressed for lasting difference" (page 25).

Bluntly put, one participant phrased it aptly: ’People don’t heal overnight. It took seventeen years to get all the shit inside of you and it’s probably going to take twenty years to get it out of you’ (p. 36). Quick-healing regimens are unrealistic. Healing takes time, and sexual exploitation is a violent, oppressive, and damaging process. In a 2003 study on sexual exploitation with some 854 participants, their findings were that prostitution was multi- traumatic, with 68% meeting the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (Farley, et al., 2003, p. 34), which, also happens to match the same range of PTSD as combat veterans (Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, & Keane, 1993, as cited in Farley, et al., 2003, p. 37). If prostitution is categorized as choice and trafficked as forced, it may be that trafficked women are dealing with even more PTSD." (page 29).



Gender discrimination and sexualization of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, Transgender and Non-Binary people, is deeply embedded in the foundation of Canadian policy, society, and consciousness.  That is, stereotypical gendered narratives were constructed by colonizers that depicted Indigenous peoples as morally inferior and culturally uncivilized - including a predisposition to extreme sexuality (this was the underlying rationale for gender segregation in the Indian Residential School system). 

Settler Colonists viewed Indigenous 'sexuality' as a threat that needed to be subdued, and another area in which they could assert dominance and control over Indigenous agency. Early on in the period of Contact with Europeans, Indigenous women, much like the "virgin" soil of North America, were perceived as available for possession by white, European men. These tropes of availability, in combination with stereotypes which constructed Indigenous women as exotic and erotic, asserted that Indigenous women were incapable of consenting (always available to the Colonial sexual appetite) and therefore inherently inviolable.

In addition to social marginalization enforced through colonialism, narratives construct Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and Transgender people as sexually disposable which creates a significant degree of proximity to violence.  Aforementioned experiences of social marginalization include, but are not limited to: the mass apprehension of Indigenous children by child and family services, low-income caused by isolation from resources, cultural activities and lifeways, and economic discrimination, housing insecurity, employment insecurity, and limited access to education.  

Annette Sikka, in the conference paper "Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada," writes:

"..[T]he terms 'control' and 'exploitation' have been interpreted by the justice system in the context of trafficking offences also do not adequately reflect the types of coercion and exploitation that Aboriginal women or girls in street-based sex work face. It has been difficult to have the criminal justice system recognize non-physical forms of coercion in trafficking analyses because the criminal law focuses only on the immediate actions of individuals." (220).  

Actors within the legal system frequently lack a sufficient understanding of the ways in which gender-marginalized Indigenous peoples experience coercion and deception.  This serves to reinforce individualistic narratives which depict participation in the survival sex work as a matter of personal choice to participate in a "high-risk lifestyle." Yet it obscures elements of social and political marginalization which pressure gender-marginalized people into survival sex work. E.g., coercion or deception by others (the promise of money, protection, security, or substances).

This is not to say that sex workers or sex work is inherently violent or deviant, nor should sex workers be criminalized. Rather, that the social, gendered, sexual, and financial inequities established by Canadian settler colonialism have enabled traffickers to take advantage of the precarious social and economic situations many Indigenous women, girls, and other gender marginalized people find themselves in. Trafficking and exploitation is driven by the desire to fulfill settler sexual fantasies and maintain oppressive power structures.





Metis Community in Saskatoon - Nutana Area


In the interview cited below in "relevant resources", Metis woman Isabelle Betty Roy describes the Metis community within the Nutana area of Saskatoon. Regarding the high percentage of Metis people in the Nutana area, she says: " “What type of neighbors did you have around you? Were they close or...?” --- Betty: “Mostly Metis. They were, you know, some Metis settlers.” She notes that officials, assumedly from the city of Saskatoon, attempted to segregate Metis people into a particular area: "they tried to get them into one area, one general area, you know. Where they say, "Okay, the Metis are over there and the white are over here." --- Victoria: “That happened here in Saskatoon?” --- Betty: “Yeah.” --- Victoria: “What part of town would that be?” --- Betty: “That was part of Nutana, just past Taylor Street there, they wanted us way up past the hill up there."-------------------- She also details her experiences of racism in the primary school system: "Never knew what a Metis was until I went to school and they start calling me half-breed." Fortunately, Ms. Roy's teacher stepped in: "My teacher explained to me what a half-breed was, and she said, ‘Be proud of your heritage,’ she said. ‘Don't let them worry you.'" Ms. Roy also described experiences of racism in her secondary education at St. Joseph's: "I was always invited to birthday parties and stuff, but there was just those few, you know, that always running you down because you weren't the same as they are." She notes that there was a high percentage of Metis students at St. Joseph's: " I would say half, half the school was Metis. The Caliphonys (?) and the Trottiers, you know, they all went to that school." She states that First Nations and Metis history was not taught in the Saskatoon school system: “Victoria: Were you taught any Metis or Indian History in school.” --- Betty: “No, not that I can remember.”------------------ Ms. Roy notes that employers took advantage of her father's social marginalization as a Metis person in negotiating wages. Because Metis people possessed less education and experienced greater difficulty finding work, Ms. Roy reports they would be forced to take whatever jobs were available, regardless of pay: "most of the them at the time were, you know, just doing odd jobs, not many of them had trades. They weren't lucky enough to go that far in school to learn anything of real value, you know.” The interview (Victoria) also asks, “Did Metis people that you knew of receive less pay than white people, you know, for doing the same type of a job?” To which Ms. Roy replied: “Oh definitely, because it was easier to talk them into doing a job for less pay. They didn't have to hire a white man if they can get a Metis for less pay. My dad always worked sometimes for half just so he could feed the family.” --- Victoria: “What type of jobs were those?” --- Betty: “Anything. He'd dig gardens. He'd do anything.”

Perhaps one of the most notable implications of this interview is the widespread racism towards Metis individuals in Saskatoon. This racism was encountered by Ms. Roy in the education system, as indicated by being called "Half-breed" and not being "the same as they are". The education system also engaged in discriminatory practices by erasing the existence of First Nations/Metis people from the historical curriculum. This type of erasure is typical of colonial myths, in which Indigenous people are constructed as "prehistoric" - that is, as having existed prior to "legitimate" history, which is misperceived as having begun at the point of European Contact. This also serves to delegitimize the complexity of Indigenous philosophies, governance and culture, and presents Indigenous people as being in opposition to modernity, as well as a hindrance to its advancement. Ethnic discrimination was also encountered by the Metis community in Saskatoon, and racist attitudes are indicated by the city's efforts to restrict Metis people to one area of the city (Ms. Roy indicates that this was a part of Nutana, around Taylor street). Discrimination is also indicated through wage disparities - she reports that Metis people were paid less than non-Metis people for the same work. The wage disparity experienced by Ms. Roy's father demonstrates the normalization of economic exploitation of Metis people.

Crooked Lake Agency at the Turn of the 19th Century


This entry concerns the history of the Crooked Lake Agency from 1880s to 1913. This history is told from the viewpoint of the colonial authorities who controlled the Agency. Furthermore, this entry concerns four bands that were located on Crooked Lake at this time. These bands are as follows: Ochapowace (#71), Kake-wista-haw (#72), O'Soup or Cowessess (#73) and Sakimay (#74). The general observations made by Dr. D.G. Mandelbaum noted that “In general the Indians under this agency seem ultra-conservative living part of the year in tipis and maintaining their own religion and customs.” What is described as “progressive” can be summed up as enrollment in government established schools on the reserve, the tending to livestock such as horses, and farming. Mandelbaum also notes that traditional dances were decreasing, and that “... in 1906, the agent reports that no Indian dances were held during the year for the first time. However, such statements must be taken with some reserve.” This particular comment was in reference to the Ochapowace band. Concerning the other three bands at Crooked Lake he notes that a member of the Kake-wista-haw band was punished for holding a give-away dance in 1898. This happened just before the turn of the century in 1898. He maintains that the O'Soup or Cowessess band were far more “progressive” stating that the band had a “… fair number of horses and most of their children in school.” He further states that the Chief of this band was considered a “reactionary” and a “a hindrance to progress.”

The implications of this event are tied to the topic of cultural genocide and assimilationist policies. As can be seen by the observations made by Dr. Mandelbaum, the objective of the Indian agents on this reserve, as with other reserves, was to assimilate Indigenous people into a mainstream English speaking, Euro-Canadian culture. The process of doing so involved the suppression of customs and traditions, to replace them with ones practiced by colonial authorities. A second factor in the assimilation process is the usage of schooling to assimilate people into this culture. Fundamentally, the schools that the Federal Government set up on Reserves, as well as the rest of the residential school system, provided an environment for cultural instruction, at the expense of the languages, beliefs, traditions, and ideas of the culture that its pupils had already received from their parents, or other family members. In short, this helped disrupt the process of cultural transmission, with disastrous results.

Government Attempts to Assimilate Indigenous Women


According to many DIA publications, Indigenous women were believed to be at fault for the conditions and poor health on reserves. This led the agents to believe that Indigenous women needed to be 'domesticated' in ways that served the colonial government and motives. Girls were not taught any skills that would be of value to them outside of the home. Schools focused on teaching Indigenous girls how to be successful housewives. They were not allowed to be trained as nurses, teachers or clerks, all of which were needed on reserves Please see related entry titled "History of Racist and Gendered Perceptions of Indigenous Women."

This was a departure from many Indigenous cultures in which women held important roles within their communities. Often women were responsible for gathering and trapping, as well as many other duties within the community. By changing the nature of the relationship between Indigenous men and women, DIA agents created a new gender dynamic in which women were seen as lesser individuals because they had less educational skills and did not carry as much responsibility as they traditionally had before. This newly imposed gender hierarchy on Indigenous societies would have lasting implications for Indigenous women, such as raising the rates of domestic violence, a high percentage of Indigenous women being forced into work that endangered them, as well as high rates of Indigenous women living as single mothers in poverty. It’s important to note that the disparities and conditions Indigenous women were/are subjected to did not exist prior to the colonial government.

Carter, Sarah. "First Nations women of prairie Canada in the early reserve years, the 1870s to the 1920s: A preliminary inquiry." Women of the First Nations: Power, Wisdom and Strength (1996): 51-75

Sub Event
Using Education to Impose Patriarchal Values

Government Control of Indigenous women


In the first half of the twentieth century, the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) had its agents exercising extreme control and surveillance over Indigenous women and their personal lives. It was a priority for the DIA and its agents to uphold the Euro-Christian ideals of marriage, and as a result they believed surveillance over Indigenous marriages was an effective way to ensure that relationships remained moral. DIA agents were known to withhold payments to Indigenous women if they believed they were not acting in a way that was consistent with European marital norms. Many women were not given their payments if they chose to leave their husbands, no matter what the circumstances were. DIA agents forced women to become more domesticated and to tend to their men to ensure that their relationships would survive. This resulted in many Indigenous women being forced to remain in abusive relationships. The process of withholding payments until Indigenous women agreed to conform to the new European social standards created a negative relationship between Indigenous women and government authority in Canada. Please see related entry titled "History of Racist and Gendered Perceptions of Indigenous Women."

By using money as a form of control, the government was able to create a power dynamic in which Indigenous women were directly dependent on the DIA agents for their survival. Many women were dependent on their annuity payments to provide for their families, especially if they had children. By asserting power over the deliverance of these payments, DIA agents forced Indigenous women to conform to their European relationship norms or face the consequence of not receiving payments. This practice left many Indigenous women in vulnerable positions because they were often forced to remain in abusive relationships to avoid retaliation from the government. Indigenous societies were familiar with divorce, and they placed no stigma on individuals who chose to part ways. In contrast, European society saw divorce as a taboo and was not accepting of individuals who chose to divorce. This societal difference was detrimental to Indigenous women because they were stripped of their agency and instead were left in a vulnerable position within society.
Sub Event
Withholding Payments to Force Indigenous women to Conform to European Moral Norms