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TV solves mystery


David Hickey, Windspeaker Correspondent, WINNIPEG







Page 12

It was quite a week for Sandra Henry.

After 20 years of looking for family members she was separated from at the age of nine, her search became international news as NBC TV's Unsolved Mysteries told her story. Local media in Winnipeg followed up and within a few days Henry had located

and spoken to her two missing brothers, one in Calgary, Alta, and one in Oshawa, Ont.

"It feels really good. I just can't explain the feelings that I have, just to know where they are, just to know that they're safe and to tell them they weren't forgotten," said Henry.

The end to Henry's story is much happier than the beginning. Back in the early 1970s she and her siblings, all younger, were abandoned in their Winnipeg home while their single mother left to look for work outside the city. The Children's Aid Society found them alone and took them away. Placed with different families, the children lost touch with one another and Henry has been wondering what happened to them ever since.

She was eventually able to locate their mother and sisters but three brothers adopted by a family in the United States, traced her a few years ago. But the whereabouts of two brothers remained unknown.

That's where the Manitoba First Nations Repatriation Program came in. The program was set up in Winnipeg a year ago by the Native directors of Child and Family Services to help trace Native family members separated by adoption.

"We decided we were going to go out and look instead of just registering with the post-adoption agency and waiting, which had been getting us nowhere," says program co-ordinator Shirlene Parisian.

Program organizers knew the power of the media and Unsolved Mysteries was contacted. They agreed to profile the agency and Sandra Henry's story.

After the program the calls began to flock in with clues of what the brothers names had been changed to and where they were. Soon the family was reunited.

Finding her family has been a source of great joy for Henry, who now has four children or her own. But there are other feelings as well; feelings of anger that it was such a long and difficult journey.

She said the old Children's Aid Society made little effort to keep children together or help them get in touch with their past. She points to the case of one brother, Calvin, who was returned to Child and Family Services after his first adoption did not work. Though two of his sisters were still wards of the Children's Aid Society, no attempt to reunite them was made.

"Yeah, I feel angry...I think they have some responsibility of not ignoring these issues. I also feel lucky that I survived and came out of it with some real positive determination. Not because of anything they had done but because I had determined that I was going to get somewhere and that someday my family would be together again.