Former sanatorium patient searches for answers, validation
Saul Day says there are things the government can do to help First Nations people continue to heal from the wounds of the past
A former patient of the Fort William Indian Hospital Sanatorium says medical experiments may have taken place there.
Saul Day was sent to the racially segregated tuberculosis hospital as a nine year old in 1955.
"As children we were sent there," Day told CBC News. "We didn't know what was going on and nobody tells you you're going to be here for a long time [or that] you're going to get treatment … I hear rumours now that there was experimentation with us while we were in the sanatorium."
Day suffers from hearing loss, as do many other former sanatorium patients. It's a side effect associated with drugs used to treat tuberculosis.
The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre recently applied to have the Fort William Sanatorium recognized under the residential school settlement agreement so that former patients could be eligible for compensation.
Path to healing
Day said he experienced physical and sexual abuse at the sanatorium similar to what he faced at McIntosh residential school.
He said it took years for him to overcome the trauma and find a path towards healing.
The 66-year-old said he's worried about slipping back into depression if he begins to dwell on his experiences in the sanatorium.
"I don't want to go there," Day said. "I'm functional enough that I have a good life and I want to stay there. I know there are so many things in the past that I haven't dealt with. To go back means I may have to go back to the same trail of being depressed, being sick. I don't want that."
But Day said there are things the government can do to help First Nations people continue to heal from the wounds of the past.
"There are a lot of unresolved issues ... one is grief," Day said. "I lost my mother at the sanatorium and to this day I don't even know where she is buried. I never had that finality in the grief cycle. That makes you sick. I'm not alone. There are so many of us out there who have lost family members in the sanatorium and they don't know where they're buried. You can't go home."
Day said it would be helpful for former patients of the sanatorium to have their experiences validated by the federal government.
A spokesperson for the government said a decision is expected in the next few weeks about whether the Fort William Indian Hospital Sanatorium will be included under the residential school settlement agreement. Documents show the federal government transferred funds for the education of students, including Day, who were sent there from residential schools.
Nine other sanatoriums across Canada have been denied recognition as residential schools.