The Tseshaht First Nation on central Vancouver Island is condemning the federal government for starving children and withholding medical care as experiments on children attending Alberni Indian Residential School more than 60 years ago.
Canadian researcher Ian Mosby, a post-doctorate from Guelph University, was working on an unrelated topic of health policy development when mentions of experiments on ‘Indians’ kept coming up. Mosby delved further into the experiments and has since written a report titled Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition research and human biomedical experimentation in Aboriginal communities and residential schools, 1942-1952.
In it, he documented how the Canadian government, with help from the Red Cross, conducted experiments on how Aboriginal children would fare when deprived of food, medical treatment and milk.
The report documents these experiments at the various residential schools in Canada, including one in Port Alberni.
“Hundreds were subjected to illegal, unauthorized experimentations,” said Tseshaht chief councillor Hugh Braker.
“They were starved and deprived of health care on purpose.”
Braker spoke to an elder living now living in Bamfield who remembered being so hungry that the kids would break down the fence and run into the field to dig up potatoes and eat them raw. The kids were also submitted to blood tests and then had to write letters thanking those who drew blood from them.
“Children were forced to write letters thanking them for doing these experiments on them,” Braker said. “Children don’t write letters thanking people for pokes.
“And we don’t know why they extracted the blood, what they did with it and we would like to know.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Braker said the Tseshaht First Nation is demanding an apology from the federal government to the those who were experimented on, to disclose all the information regarding the experimentation on the children, provide compensation and provide funding to research the effects of these experiments on former students.
Braker added that he will be attending a United Nations meeting about racism in August in Vancouver to discuss this issue.