Siblings search for their mother and themselves in Birth of a Family: Schneller

National Film Board of Canada documentary about victims of Sixties Scoop shows the power of forgiveness.

Birth of a Family airs Sunday at 9 p.m on CBC.


Birth of a Family airs Sunday at 9 p.m on CBC.

The Show: Birth of a Family

The Moment: The tourist photographs

Betty Ann Adam and her younger siblings Ben, Rose and Esther were victims of the Sixties Scoop: four of the 20,000 Indigenous children whom the Canadian and provincial governments removed from their homes and placed in the welfare system from 1955 to 1985 (1985!). After years of searching, Betty Ann, who’s a journalist, found them. Now the four, in their 50s, are reuniting in Banff.

“I was raised in a good and decent home,” Betty Ann tells the doc’s director, Tasha Hubbard. “I’ve had many say to me, ‘You were lucky.’ It’s almost as if they want me to agree I’m better off because I wasn’t with my mother. There was a time when I would have agreed. But I don’t feel that way now ... I feel ripped off.”

Her siblings concur. As they swap photos and life stories, they’re alternately polite and unexpectedly emotional. “This is very bizarre,” Rose sums up.

And yet, as they visit tourist sites, they take pictures of each other in front of hokey Canadiana: enormous Canadian flags, as well as statues of a moose and bear dressed as Mounties.

This doc from the National Film Board of Canada has been making the rounds at festivals and community screenings. It’s heartbreaking to watch these four search each other’s faces for signs of their mother, the little children they once knew and themselves.

But it’s also extraordinary how little anger they seem to carry. They’re living proof that forgiveness, as difficult as it is, sets you free.

Birth of a Family airs Nov. 19 at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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