Imagine, if you can, being taken from your family as a child and placed in foster care for no real reason other than your ethnicity. Sadly this was the grim reality for many Canadian First Nations children in the 20th century. Birth of a Family, a new documentary from director Tasha Hubbard, tells the story of four of those children, all siblings who come together for the first time after decades of being apart.
Betty Ann, Ester, Rosalie and Ben were all born to Mary Jane Adam and removed from her home as young children by the Canadian government as a part of what was referred to as the Sixties Scoop. It is estimated that as many as 20,000 children were removed from First Nations homes between the 1950s and the 1980s in what is considered by many to be an effort to weaken the native community by alienating children from their culture.
The film documents a week in which the siblings meet and bond, while visiting Banff National Park; getting to know each other and sharing stories from their separate upbringings. It is a beautiful and melancholy film which illuminates a shameful but little known part of Canadian history. For this reason alone it is an important piece of work but what makes it truly exceptional are the four individuals at the centre of the story.
The raw emotion, a heart-wrenching combination of pain and joy, shown by the siblings throughout the film is as moving as anything I have seen on film. Their willingness to lay bare their experiences and feelings is inspiring, and while their story is devastating to watch it acts as a reminder of the resilience of the First Nations people who, against all odds and despite every effort to destroy them, continue to persevere.