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  • A group of female students and a nun pose in a classroom at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Cross Lake, Mba., in a February, 1940.

    A group of female students and a nun pose in a classroom at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Cross Lake, Mba., in a February, 1940. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 May 2018

Earlier in January, an Edmonton woman filed a suit against Canada alleging abuse at the 29 Indian Hospitals the federal government ran between 1945 and 1981.

In a class action lawsuit filed in May, thousands of Indigenous people have sued Canada for subjecting them to scientific medical experiments without their consent between the 1930s and 1950s. 

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"Inappropriate medical procedures and experiments were conducted by the Government of Canada or their agents, beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the 1970s,” said the lawsuit filed in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

It holds the federal government responsible for experiments allegedly carried out on reserves and in residential schools between the 1930s and 1950s, along with the Canadian government's long history of "discriminatory and inadequate medical care" at the Indigenous hospitals and sanatoriums, referring to the key components of a segregated health care system that operated across the country from 1945 into the early 1980s, the Guardian reported.

"This strikes me as so atrocious that there ought to be punitive and exemplary damages awarded, in addition to compensation," Tony Merchant, whose Merchant Law Group filed the class action, told the Guardian. 

According to the lawsuit, over 150,000 aboriginal children were forced to assimilate into Canadian society –  and were exposed to these experiments, where researchers tested out their theories about vitamins and certain foods, all while depriving them of nutrients that may have researchers claim were essential to their diet. 

The lawsuit cites six schools, stretching from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, and links them to experiments carried out from 1948 to 1953 and alleges that since the diet at the schools was known to be nutritionally deficient, the children were considered "ideal experimental subjects."  

"The wrong here is that nobody knew it was happening. Their families didn’t know it was happening," Merchant added. The lawsuit also talks about researcher findings of trials which Merchant mentioned were aimed at depriving the children of nutrients. 

"So what they did on a systemic basis … they would identify a group of indigenous children in schools where they were being compulsorily held and they would not give them the same treatment," Merchant said. "They used them as a control against experiments that they were doing in other places and they also used them to test certain kinds of foods and drugs." 

This isn't the first lawsuit filed by Indigenous people accusing the Canadian government of atrocities. 

Earlier in January, an Edmonton woman filed a suit against Canada alleging abuse at the 29 Indian Hospitals the federal government ran between 1945 and 1981. 

The statement claimed Indigenous patients suffered consistent physical and sexual assaults, were deprived of food and drink, force-fed their own vomit and unnecessarily restrained in their beds, Global News (Canada) reported.  


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