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The Vancouver Sun quotes from a report made by The Anglican Journal, which reveals that, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, a portion of First Nations children in residential schools were used for “health experiments”.
“The authorities deliberately denied native children basic dental treatment and scientists ‘tinkered’ with their diets, [by adding or removing vitamin supplements]” the article reports. “The government did not inform all of the parents who should have been informed of the research the government was conducting on their children.”
Dr. L.B. Pett, the physician in charge of the Health and Welfare Canada experiments, defends his experiments, saying: “It was not a deliberate attempt to leave children to develop caries (tooth decay) except for a limited time or place or purpose, then to study the effects of vitamin C or fluoride.”
For close to a century, B.C.’s residential schools were responsible for forcibly removing tens of thousands of First Nations children from their parents, and, in the course of their “education” and assimilation, they were exposed to disease, malnutrition, and often subjected to physical and sexual abuse. In fact, according to a 1907 government report prepared by Dr. Peter Bryce, (a physician hired by the Department of Indian Affairs) an overall mortality rate of 50% was documented in B.C. residential schools, where healthy pupils were often deliberately exposed to tuberculosis. Upon discovery of these findings, Bryce was fired, and his report suppressed.
In 2009, the Canadian Government will officially apologize for their involvement in the Residential School System, and roll out a $1.9-billion compensation plan for its survivors.
Image: Studio portrait of three unidentified First Nations people, circa 1860s. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.