Canada must admit aboriginal maltreatment to start anew: EditorialA snapshot from the 1960s of aboriginal children at St. Anne's residential school in northern Ontario. It was revealed this week that federal scientists used starving aboriginals in residential schools and on reserves to study nutritional supplements.
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From residential schools to forced relocations, Canada’s record on institutional abuses of its aboriginal people is well documented. Despite this, the discovery of papers proving that federal researchers denied nutrition or deliberately starved aboriginal children in the 1940s and ‘50s is both shocking and tragic.
What a terrible burden for the 1,300 (or more) children who were deprived of sustenance and even dental care in secret experiments, all of which came to light in research uncovered by Ian Mosby, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Guelph. It’s a powerful discovery.
These “nutritional experiments” began in 1942 in northern Manitoba and within five years were being conducted on kids in at least six residential schools across the country. As the Canadian Press first reported, native children were used as nutritional guinea pigs after researchers found widespread malnutrition on reserves as the result of the dying fur trade.
Crucially, the experiments were done without obtaining consent from those affected. According to Murray Sinclair, chairman of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission looking into residential school abuses, even at the time that violated accepted scientific standards.
That mindset seems inconceivable today, although rampant discrimination against aboriginal people, especially the numerous cases of missing women, has been widely exposed in recent years.
And while no one can rewrite history, the Assembly of First Nations is right to ask the federal government to “acknowledge” this most recent example of abuse — and admit that many children are still hungry today, if only because their communities are so depleted. It’s a symbolic request, but as the assembly said on Thursday, “Canada, this is your history. We must confront the ugly truths and move forward together.”Making progress requires leadership from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who should speak out against disturbing government practises after World War II. Once commended for his full apology over Canada’s mistreatment 150,000 native children who were sent to residential schools, Harper is
now seen as indifferent to requests for aboriginal self-determination