Disturbing new research was made public this week that details how aboriginal children and adults were used as unwitting subjects in government-run experiments on the effects of malnutrition.
At least 1,300 aboriginal people, most of them children, were involved in the experiments during the 1940s and 1950s, according to findings uncovered by Ian Mosby of the University of Guelph.
One school deliberately provided children less than half the recommended amount of milk rations in order to gather data. Another school divided children into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one group that did not, according to Mosby's research.
"It shows Canadians the mentality behind Canada's Indian administration during this period," Mosby told CBC News. "It seems that little good came out of the studies in terms of scientific knowledge."
For 76-year-old Leonard Pootlass, who attended a residential school in Port Alberni, B.C., the revelation is not surprising. "We kind of suspected something like that was happening," Pootlass told the Toronto Star this week. "They never treated us as human beings."
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt issued a statement on his behalf. "If this story is true, this is abhorrent and completely unacceptable," Andrea Richer said in an email.
"When Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper made a historic apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008 on behalf of all Canadians, he recognized that this period had caused great harm and had no place in Canada."
National Chief Cliff Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations told CBC this week he demands that a full report on the residential school experiments be turned over to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Established in 2008, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology for the Indian residential school system, the commission studies the lasting legacy of the institutions.
"It's hard not to get sick to the stomach, given that we are dealing with children at these schools," Atleo said. "This story ... is really going to open up some old wounds, and scars that really run deep in our communities."
Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, was on the show last season and spoke about his own father's brutal experience in the residential school system - and what he thinks it will take to get non-First Nations Canadians to really take notice of the issue.
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