Manitoba

Early whistleblower on residential schools showcased in display at United Way of Winnipeg

A small exhibit in the lobby of the United Way tells the story of a doctor who sounded the alarm on the deplorable conditions in residential schools more than a century ago.

Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce raised alarms on deplorable conditions at turn of last century

A display in the lobby of the United Way tells the story of Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, one of the first people to sound the alarm on conditions in residential schools. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

A small exhibit in the lobby of the United Way tells the story of a doctor who sounded the alarm on the deplorable conditions in residential schools more than a century ago.

Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce was a non-Indigenous doctor in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In 1904, he was hired by the federal government to handle public health issues for Indian Affairs.

In his role, he was responsible for assessing health conditions in residential schools.

Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce told the federal government about deplorable conditions at Indian residential schools more than a century ago. (Peter Campbell)

"What he found were conditions where children were not even being given basic levels of health care and dying at a rate higher than soldiers in World War I and World War II," said Kevin Lamoureux, associate vice-president of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Winnipeg, who helped put the display together.

Bryce was so disgusted by what he saw, he devoted the rest of his career to exposing how awful residential schools were.

He published a book detailing what he witnessed, laying blame on the federal government for its negligence.

"It really explains in real world numbers, even to the most cynical of critics, how horrible the conditions were. It, in no small terms, describes acts of genocide," Lamoureux said.

The exhibit is a series of interpretive panels just inside the front entrance of the United Way.

Lamoureux said he hopes the exhibit shows that we all have a role to play in reconciliation.

"It's a common misunderstanding that reconciliation is a gift that we're giving out of pity to Indigenous people. That entirely incorrect," he said.

"I see reconciliation as a gift that was given to Canada by residential school survivors who, as children, could have experienced the very worst of what Canada's been guilty of, and still grew to be the kind of people that could extend their hand in friendship back to this country."

The Peter Henderson Bryce exhibit is at the United Way on Main Street until Friday.

With files from Up to Speed 

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