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CMHR issues call for photos, stories on Aboriginal child welfare

News release details

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has issued a public call to explore what exhibit materials might be available from First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, and others who have lived experiences in the child welfare systems. 

Individuals, families, social workers and others with first-hand experiences are being asked to submit photographs and stories that may help depict human-rights issues surrounding the "Sixties Scoop" and subsequent Indigenous child-welfare policies.

Given the sensitive nature of this subject matter, this call is exploratory only at this stage. How the materials are used will depend on final exhibit decisions and the nature of materials received. Signed permission for use will be required from the owners of the materials (or parents/ guardians if they are under 16) and from any recognizable person portrayed in photographs. 

Materials and inquiries can be sent to images@museumforhumanrights.ca or mailed to the CMHR at 400–269 Main Street, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 1B3, specifying "Call for photos – child welfare). More information can be found here.

The term "Sixties Scoop" was coined by Patrick Johnston in his 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System. It refers to the Canadian practice, beginning in the 1960s and continuing until the late 1980s, of apprehending high numbers of Aboriginal children and placing them in foster care or adoption, usually into white families. An estimated 20,000 children were affected.

CMHR researcher-curator Tricia Logan said the legacy of this system is complex and has far-reaching impacts. "Contributing photos and sharing personal stories allows individuals who have been part of the Aboriginal child welfare system to have voice for their own experiences."

Jac-Lynn Wasyliw, who has been contracted by CMHR to assist with collecting materials, submitted some of her own photographs as a survivor of the child welfare system.

"Visibility is an important concept for those of us who went through the system, whose childhood and cultural identity often disappeared as a result of these policies," she said. "My photographs speak to the need to be visible and acknowledged, which I hope will help relay important human-rights lessons."

Currently under construction in Winnipeg, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights in Canada. It is the first national museum to be established since 1967 and the first outside the National Capital Region.

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Maureen Fitzhenry