“My heart goes into my throat. I want to be sick, because the fear inside me starts to consume me. I take a huge gulp, willing my heart to slow down. I tell myself – ‘I can’t cry. I need to be brave.’ ”
- Christine McFarlane, wrote of her discovery at age 10 that her adoptive parents were giving her up to foster care.
Christine McFarlane, today a published writer, world traveler and activist, was born off-reserve to First Nation parents in Manitoba. She was part of the “Sixties Scoop” of aboriginal children apprehended by government social workers and adopted out
to non-native families in the 1960s and 70s.
Christine’s biological mother was a survivor of residential schools, haunted by unspoken memories of abuse. She knows little of her father other than that “he was a violent man”; he was subsequently murdered in 1990.
The adoption placed Christine and her sister into a southern Ontario white family that proved punitive and judgmental of them and their First Nations origin. Food was used as punishment and she often went hungry. At age 10, Christine’s adoptive parents brought her to a boarding school and legally severed the adoptive relationship. Her sister was kept in the adoptive home and Christine lost contact with her, spending the rest of her childhood and adolescence in foster care. By age 12, she had developed anorexia nervosa and, by her 20s, she was in and out of hospital emergency rooms with thoughts of suicide and diagnoses that included Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Meeting and working with CAMH psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Stewart and building trust with others, including the staff of First Nations House, marked the beginning of Christine’s journey of hope and healing.
Returning to school, Christine entered the Academic Bridging Program at the University of Toronto in 2004. There, she received her Bachelor of Arts, and the President’s Award in 2011 for the Outstanding Native Student of the year.
Christine now writes prolifically of her own experiences, including poems, short stories, and a monthly column in Native Canadian magazine. She hopes especially to be a role model to her niece and to other aboriginal youth.
Today, Christine’s symbol for herself is the bear, which she describes as the symbol of “introspection, strength and whose presence means you are healing”. It is powerfully apparent, that through her recovery, Christine has reclaimed her bear.