‘We are sorry’: Manitoba premier apologizes to two men switched at birth decades ago

'We are sorry': Manitoba premier apologizes to two men switched at birth decades ago
THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew, centre, apologizes to Richard Beauvais, right, and Edward Ambrose, left, who were switched at birth in 1955, in the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Manitoba Thursday, March 21, 2014. Kinew apologized to the couple for being switched at birth in a rural Manitoba hospital in 1955.

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew formally apologized at the provincial legislature Thursday to two men who were switched at birth in a hospital almost 70 years ago and only late in life discovered their true identities.

Kinew called it a terrible wrong that cannot be undone but must be acknowledged and atoned for.

“Ed and Richard are here today as two people wronged by the Manitoba government and the institutions they should have been able to trust,” Kinew said as Edward Ambrose and Richard Beauvais sat near the middle of the legislature chamber. Ambrose, who recently discovered he is Métis, wore a sash around his waist.

“They were wronged from the very first day each of them arrived here on Earth.”

The premier said the men were denied connection to their families, and their parents were denied their children.

The men met privately with Kinew and, after the apology, said they appreciated the premier’s words.

“I would say he’s a gentleman of heart. I felt very, very good,” Beauvais said.

The two were born in a municipally run hospital in Arborg, Man., in 1955 and were sent home with each other’s parents.

They grew up, married and had children of their own. For decades, they were unaware of each other.

Kinew said the men’s family connections eerily and unknowingly crossed paths.

One day in school, a young Ambrose asked a girl from a few towns over to be on his baseball team, not knowing she was his biological sister, said Kinew.

A teenage Beauvais ended up fishing at a British Columbia shore where his biological sister would also cast a rod. He also went to a bar where she worked, unaware of the connection, Kinew added.

“We apologize to your children and grandchildren for depriving them for so many years of their rightful inheritance, culture, identity and, perhaps most of all, family,” Kinew said.

“For these things, we are sorry.

“We hope these words will help you to reconcile the person you were for the most extended periods of your life with the person that you were at birth.”

Ambrose was raised in a Ukrainian family and grew up in Rembrandt, a farming community south of Arborg. His mother and father died by the time he was 12. He was shuffled between relatives then placed with a foster family who adopted him.

Beauvais has said his father died young and his mother struggled to raise him and his siblings in Saint Laurent, a historically MĂ©tis community on the shores of Lake Manitoba. He was sent to a residential day school, was picked on for being Indigenous and was taken from his family and placed in foster homes.

He eventually became a commercial fisherman and moved to B.C.

The truth that the two had been sent home from the hospital with the wrong families was discovered a few years ago through an at-home ancestry kit.

The men recently met face to face for the first time.

“It’s emotional for meeting someone who is you, but I am him,” Ambrose said while standing next to Beauvais after the apology.

Ambrose has said it is difficult to deal with the reality of what happened, but reconnecting with his biological family and exploring his Indigenous identity has helped him cope.

Last month, Ambrose officially received his MĂ©tis citizenship.

The men’s lawyer, Bill Gange, said discussions with the province about compensation are ongoing.

“Given the very heartfelt speech that the premier gave, I’m confident that we’ll be able to work something out,” said Gange.

Relatives said they are moving forward after discovering the shocking truth.

“My heart’s been broken for a while since we found out,” Evelyn Stocki, Ambrose’s sister, said.

“But we look forward to rebuilding our lives.”

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2024.

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