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Men switched at birth to get formal apology from Manitoba government

March 20, 2024

Edward Ambrose and Richard Beauvais, born in Arborg, Man., in 1955, meet for the 1st time

An elderly man holds up two picture frames to the camera.
Edward Ambrose holds up framed pictures in a photo from early 2023. In his left hand is a wedding photo of his ‘bonded parents,’ as he calls them. In his right hand are photos of his biological parents, whom he never got to meet. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

CBC News: Edward Ambrose struggles to describe what it was like to meet “someone who is me” for the first time.

Ambrose and Richard Beauvais, who were switched at birth at a hospital in Manitoba in 1955, first met face-to-face Tuesday ahead of a formal apology the provincial government will make to them on Thursday.

“I grew up with the features of my father, which is his father,” Ambrose said on Wednesday afternoon, and Beauvais resembles the mother who raised Ambrose. “It’s there, you can see.”

Premier Wab Kinew will deliver the apology to the two men in the Manitoba Legislature on Thursday, Northern Affairs Minister Ian Bushie said Wednesday.

The two were born at the same hospital in Arborg, Man., in 1955, and were taken home by each other’s biological parents.

Ambrose was raised believing he was Ukrainian, while Beauvais was raised Métis, went to a day school for Indigenous children and was taken from the family during the Sixties Scoop, when Indigenous children were removed from their homes and put in foster homes or adopted out of their communities.

A man and a woman stand together on a dock at the edge of water, with mountains in the background.
Richard Beauvais, here with his wife, Sonja, grew up believing he was Métis. (Submitted by Richard Beauvais)

“I think it’s very important that we acknowledge what’s been done,” Bushie said Wednesday about the apology.

The two men will meet with Kinew at the legislative building on Thursday, Bushie said when he was asked whether they’ll receive compensation from the government.

“I’m not going to pre-empt the meeting and discussion that are going to happen” between the men and the premier, he said.

Bill Gange, the two men’s lawyer, first formally requested an apology in April 2022. The provincial government at that time said it had no legal liability in the situation and that it would not offer the men any compensation, Gange told the CBC.

It’s important to Kinew, who was elected in October, to make the apology, Bushie said.

Two men standing next to each other hold up an identitification card.
Edward Ambrose, left, and Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand pose for a photo in February 2024 as Ambrose obtains his MMF citizenship card. (Manitoba Métis Federation)

It wasn’t until 2022 that Ambrose learned from his sister, who had submitted her DNA to a popular testing company, that they weren’t biological siblings. She learned through the same test that Beauvais was her biological brother.

Both men have said they were shocked by the news and found it deeply painful.

The families also deserve an apology, Ambrose said, as the discovery has been hard on all of them.

He and Beauvais never got to meet their biological parents, who have all died, and they can only rely on the stories they hear from each other to understand what their lives might have been like, he said.

“You only go forward, and you try and make the best of what you can. The age we are now, there’s a lot of years that have been lost and you’ll never get back,” he said.

“Going forward from here, you know, we just need to learn and listen from each other.”

While Beauvais did not want to speak to media on Wednesday, he did speak with a CBC reporter in 2023.

He was raised in a Métis community near Lake Manitoba, believing he was of Cree and French descent, but he is actually of Ukrainian, Jewish and Polish ancestry.

“I came from a time where it was shameful to be an Indian,” he said in 2023. “I felt I lost something, because when you fight so hard to be somebody, and all of a sudden you’re not that person — it sets you back.”

Ambrose told the CBC that he grew up on a farm in Rembrandt, Man., with a loving Ukrainian family.

He got his Manitoba Métis Federation citizenship in February.

“I couldn’t hold it, I had to cry,” Ambrose said last month about receiving his citizenship card from David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation.

Gange said Wednesday that he expects to negotiate with the provincial government for compensation for the two men and their family members who have been negatively affected.

  • We initially reported that Edward Ambrose and Richard Beauvais met on Wednesday. In fact, they first met on Tuesday.Mar 20, 2024 5:08 PM CT

Lara Schroeder, Senior writer

Lara Schroeder is an online copy editor for CBC Manitoba who dabbles in writing and radio. She started her career as a reporter at small-town community newspapers, but her English degree and habits nurtured by her English teacher dad and grammatically meticulous mom steered her toward editing. Her many jobs have included editing at the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Toronto Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press.