Canada: Aboriginal children were used in government experiments

Hungry Canadian aboriginal children were used in government experiments during 1940s, researcher says

New historical research says hungry aboriginal children and adults were once used as unwitting subjects in nutritional experiments by the Canadian government.

By: Andrew Livingstone News reporter, Bob Weber The Canadian Press,

July 16 2013

Aboriginal children were deliberately starved in the 1940s and ’50s by government researchers in the name of science.

Milk rations were halved for years at residential schools across the country.

Essential vitamins were kept from people who needed them.

Dental services were withheld because gum health was a measuring tool for scientists and dental care would distort research.

For over a decade, aboriginal children and adults were unknowingly subjected to nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats.

This disturbing look into government policy toward aboriginals after World War II comes to light in recently published historical research.

When Canadian researchers went to a number of northern Manitoba reserves in 1942 they found rampant malnourishment. But instead of recommending increased federal support to improve the health of hundreds of aboriginals suffering from a collapsing fur trade and already limited government aid, they decided against it. Nutritionally deprived aboriginals would be the perfect test subjects, researchers thought.

The details come from Ian Mosby, a post-doctorate at the University of Guelph, whose research focused on one of the most horrific aspects of government policy toward aboriginals during a time when rules for research on humans were just being adopted by the scientific community.

Researching the development of health policy for a different research project, Mosby uncovered “vague references to studies conducted on ‘Indians’ ” and began to investigate.

Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

These experiments aren’t surprising to Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission became aware of the experiments during their collection of documents relating to the treatment and abuse of native children at residential schools across Canada from the 1870s to the 1990s.

It’s a disturbing piece of research, he said, and the experiments are entrenched with the racism of the time.

“This discovery, it’s indicative of the attitude toward aboriginals,” Sinclair said. “They thought aboriginals shouldn’t be consulted and their consent shouldn’t be asked for. They looked at it as a right to do what they wanted then.”

In the research paper, published in May, Mosby wrote, “the experiment seems to have been driven, at least in part, by the nutrition experts’ desire to test their theories on a ready-made ‘laboratory’ populated with already malnourished human experimental subjects.”

Researchers visited The Pas and Norway House in northern Manitoba in 1942 and found a demoralized population marked by, in their words, “shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia.”

They decided that isolated, dependent, hungry people would be ideal subjects for tests on the effects of different diets.

“In the 1940s, there were a lot of questions about what are human requirements for vitamins,” Mosby said. “Malnourished aboriginal people became viewed as possible means of testing these theories.”

These experiments are “abhorrent and completely unacceptable,” said Andrea Richer, spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt.

The first experiment began in 1942 on 300 Norway House Cree. Of that group, 125 were selected to receive vitamin supplements, which were withheld from the rest.

At the time, researchers calculated the local people were living on less than 1,500 calories a day. Normal, healthy adults generally require at least 2,000.

In 1947, plans were developed for research on about 1,000 hungry aboriginal children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Schubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

One school for two years deliberately held milk rations to less than half the recommended amount to get a ‘baseline’ reading for when the allowance was increased. At another school, children were divided into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one that didn’t.

One school depressed levels of vitamin B1 to create another baseline before levels were boosted.

And, so that all the results could be properly measured, one school was allowed none of those supplements.

The experiments, repugnant today, would probably have been considered ethically dubious even at the time, said Mosby.

“I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies — that’s a different question. Source

More on this story

Hungry aboriginal people used in bureaucrats’ experiments

Update July 18 2013

First Nations leaders demand apology for nutritional experiments

Update July 19 2013

Canadian nutrition experiments ‘alarming’ but not surprising, says former aboriginal student

Update July 30 2013

Aboriginal nutritional experiments had Ottawa’s approval

Update July 31 2013

Aboriginal children used in medical tests, commissioner says

Aboriginal Canadians were not only subjected to nutritional experiments by the federal government in the 1940s and 1950s but were also used as medical test subjects, says the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s All Points West on Tuesday, Justice Murray Sinclair told host Jo-Ann Roberts that commission staff has “seen the documents that relate to the experiments that were conducted in residential schools.”

Other documents related to experimentation in aboriginal communities outside of residential schools have not yet been obtained, Sinclair said.

“We do know that there were research initiatives that were conducted with regard to medicines that were used ultimately to treat the Canadian population. Some of those medicines were tested in aboriginal communities and residential schools before they were utilized publicly.”

Sinclair said some of those medicines developed were then withheld from the same aboriginal children they were originally tested on.

“Some of those medicines which we know were able to work in the general population, we also have discovered were withheld from children in residential schools, and we’re trying to find the documents which explain that too,” Sinclair said.

CBC News has not seen the documents in the possession of the commission.

Recent revelations that the Canadian government used at least 1,300 aboriginal children attending residential schools in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia as test subjects have prompted further calls from aboriginal groups to pressure the federal government to turn over all archival documents related to residential schools.

“Our government recognizes that the relationship between Canada and First Nations has helped shape the country we know today,” Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s director of communications Jason MacDonald said Wednesday in a statement.

“While we cannot undo the past, we can learn from it and ensure that those dark chapters are not repeated.”

MacDonald said that is why the Conservative government apologized for the residential school policy and “that is why we continue to focus on the work of reconciliation, on improving living conditions for First Nations, and on creating economic opportunities for First Nation communities.”

The commission, according to Sinclair, is in possession of the documents used by historian Ian Mosby to show that the Canadian government conducted nutritional experiments on malnourished aboriginal children and adults attending residential schools during and after the Second World War.

However, the commission has not been able to obtain documents “related to experimentation that went on in aboriginal communities outside of the residential school setting.”

“We haven’t seen those documents,” the chair of the commission told CBC News.

Valcourt’s office has said they have turned over 900 documents related to this to the work by the commission.

Ottawa ordered to provide all documents

In January, an Ontario Court ordered the Canadian government to turn over all residential school archival documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and while the federal government has expressed a willingness to comply, Sinclair said “we haven’t seen the documents start to flow yet.”

The worry now, said Sinclair, is that even with the best of intentions Ottawa may not have the resources to provide all these archival documents in a timely manner.

“It’s a question of capacity and whether they have sufficient resources and time to be able to get them to us before our mandate as a commission expires on July 1, 2014.”

Sinclair said that if the federal government is unable to turn over all of the documents from Library and Archives Canada before the commission’s mandate expires next summer, the commission may have to turn to the courts once more.

Many of the documents are said to reside with departments outside of Aboriginal Affairs, such as the Health Department.

But a final report without all the documents would not be a “truthful” report, according to Sinclair.

“The report itself, in our view, only complies with the mandate if we are able to write a full and complete history of residential schools and in order to do that, we need those documents,” the chair of the commission told CBC News.

The residential schools system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s, removed about 150,000 aboriginal children from their families and sent them to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of “civilizing” First Nations.

Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.

In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the churches that ran the schools and the Canadian government.

The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper followed by the creation of the commission in 2008. Source

August 19 2013 Update

80 per cent of Kenora residential school students had TB

Newly released archival documents show alarming rate of deadly disease

For the rest of the story go HERE

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2 Comments

  1. That’s not all the government allowed. These children taken from their homes and put into residential schools where they were raped, sodomized and girls impregnated had thir babies murdered. It is a disgusting tale of rampant evil that goes to show, the wolves that prowl in sheep’s clothing live among us. The story is found on itccs.org if interested.

  2. Elizabeth you are quite right. I have followed the residential school story for years. The things done to those children were horrendous. As time goes on, the more we discover, the worse it gets. About 50% of the children died, if I remember correctly. Now we can add starvation to crimes, commuted, against, innocent children. One has to wonder what other experiments were conducted? The Harper Government does not want to open other files that might shed light on these crimes either. Sooner or latter, we will get to all the truth. No child should have ever have been exposed, to those types of abuse, especially those in the care of church and state. Both church and state have attempted to cover up all those abuses. Those who victimized the children, go unpunished.


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