Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says the province will formally apologize for decades-old policies that saw aboriginal adoptees taken from their homes and placed with non-native families.
But Wall says Saskatchewan will not offer cash to the victims of the so-called '60s Scoop because the province feels it is not a "compensatory issue."
"I am telling you, the government is not entering into this with the idea of compensating with cash — some sort of a cash payment — for those in this issue," Wall said Wednesday during a break in a cabinet meeting in Saskatoon.
"That's not the direction we're intending. We want to move forward and deal with the ongoing issues that exist. We want to make sure there is a broader knowledge about the Scoop, which there isn't, frankly."
Wall said his government will work with aboriginal groups in the coming months to ensure the apology can be given earnestly, but he did not say when it will be delivered.
"We are going to have our respective ministers — the minister of social services, the minister of First Nations and Metis relations and myself — meet with First Nations and Metis leaders, aboriginal leaders in the province to make sure we get it right."
An estimated 20,000 aboriginal children across Canada were taken by child-welfare agents starting in the 1960s and placed with non-aboriginal families.
It has been acknowledged the practice stripped those children of their language, culture and traditions. It is said to have had a similar impact to that of residential schools. Some victims have described it as being treated like pets.
Class-action lawsuits are in the process of being launched in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
"I phoned my mother today and we were both crying," said Robert Doucette, the president of Metis Nation-Saskatchewan, who was taken from his family as a baby and placed in a foster home.
He said the apology is important and his mother wants to be at the legislature when it happens.
It wasn't only children who suffered, Doucette said. So did their parents and grandparents.
Last week, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger apologized on behalf of his government and didn't rule out providing compensation.
"I feel that the families need support," he said at the time. "If they think there is a role for compensation and we think that's going to be an important part of it, we will consider that in the future."
Wall noted that attempts to remove culture from children in the past wasn't limited to just aboriginals. He said his father was encouraged not to speak the Mennonite language of Plautdietsch, with disciplinary measures in school if he did.
"That's not an immoral equivalency of the Scoop, but I am saying: What the Scoop was about was removing aboriginal culture and language from kids, from a people," he said.
"That's just wrong."