Starved residential school children deserve disclosure and apology

If ever there was a case for government apologizing for a historical wrong, deliberately experimenting on residential school children is it.

It is ironic that in the same week South Africa mourns the loss of the “Father of Freedom”, Nelson Mandela—the man responsible for abolishing apartheid—the Alberni Valley was the scene of an emotional Forum on Experiments on Students at the Alberni Indian Residential School.

As Africa—a country long divided by lines of colour—reconciles its past and crafts a future that includes equality, Canada is only now discovering that some of its aboriginal children were starved in the name of science.

So-called nutritional experiments were uncovered by Canadian food historian Ian Mosby and published in a scholarly article in July.

The fact that this information was buried in historical records and not made public until now is reprehensible.

Some may say this forum is so much hype — that people have always known that kids were being starved in residential schools, and that some arrived at the schools in a malnourished state. The line in the sand is drawn for us, however, in that withholding food was deliberate.

Turn this around: if such experimentation had occurred in private boarding schools, would we be so lackadaisical about the results? There would be no question people would be in an uproar.

While we are adamant that financial compensation should not be viewed as affixing dollar figures to human beings, we can’t help but be shocked that the federal government has said it has already paid compensation for wrongs for students attending residential schools; this is a new revelation.

Besides, it’s not about the money. It’s about acknowledging children whose lives were entrusted to staff at these schools were wronged.  At some point, people whose entire lives have been affected by residential schools must be able to move on. In order to do that, they must be given full disclosure on what really happened in those schools.

If ever there was a case for any level of government to make an apology for an historical wrong, the deliberate experimentation on children at residential schools is it.

— Alberni Valley News

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