North Saanich resident Wallace “Wally” du Temple has written Dream Catcher and Reconciliation about his experiences as a social worker during the notorious Sixties Scoop.
During the Sixties Scoop thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their families and adopted or placed in mostly euro-Canadian foster homes.
The term was coined by researcher Patrick Johnston in his 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System.
The government policies that led to the Sixties Scoop were discontinued in the mid-1980s and multiple lawsuits have since followed, including one in B.C. in 2011.
In his book, du Temple explains beginning his career as a social worker in northern B.C.
“I was sent up there and was the only social worker on the Alaksa Highway, 900 miles of gravel road. It’s incredible to think that in the sixties they wanted a social worker to cover all that territory,” he says.
Pretty soon, du Temple found himself at the centre of practices and policies that troubled him.
The first incident, which he says is recalled in the first chapter, concerned a pregnant Indigenous woman who went trapping on familiar ground with her husband. Although the temperatures were low and she had been advised to stay at home, she decided to press on. du Temple says that she had given birth to two of her three children in a nearby log cabin while going about her traditional way of life and thought she could do the same this time. However, after going into labour she suffered complications and lost the baby.
“On the basis of that her three children were seized and sent to foster parents in the south. I saw the injustice of that and other cases,” recounts du Temple. “It was based on prejudice, there had been no abuse at all. That’s why I started to make reports.”
du Temple says that with other social workers, most notably Bridget Moran, he tried to blow the whistle to his employer but their appeals fell on deaf ears. With more children being scooped up, he made his criticism of child welfare services public in 1964, including an open letter to B.C.’s Premier W.A.C. Bennett. The result was increased public awareness, but of the social workers who raised their concerns, three were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements and five were fired, including himself and Moran.
The Sixties Scoop was based on the belief that Aboriginal children would have a better life with middle-class, largely white, Canadians but sadly some suffered physical and sexual abuse within a system that had few welfare safeguards.
There have been suggestions that part of the problem was social workers didn’t understand Indigenous culture and many thousands of children were taken from loving homes due to their parents’ way of life or poverty.
du Temple says the events changed the course of his life. He went back to school, earned his teaching qualifications and taught Sts’Ailes First Nations students at Harrison Hot Springs and a remote Inuit community in Nunavut.
He ended as principal at a school that was located on the site of the community’s old residential school.
Dream Catcher and Reconciliation can be purchased at Tanner’s Books and friesenpress.com.