First Nations leaders are expressing their outrage at revelations earlier this week that the Canadian government used starving aboriginal children as lab rats to study nutrition.
“This report has sent a shockwave through First Nations in Canada and should be no less shocking to all Canadians and beyond,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo in a statement. “The reports of these studies, in which more than a thousand indigenous children were denied essential nutrition and in some cases deliberately starved, were reported as far back as 2000 but did not gain national attention. Sadly, I have a deeply personal connection as my home community of Ahousaht was one of the communities that had these studies imposed on them unknowingly. My elders and family members were exposed to this cruel and inhumane treatment where our children were treated like lab rats.”
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee called it outright colonialism and said little has changed in the decades since World War II.
“When the story first broke about Canada being involved with experiments on First Nation children, it was no surprise to me,” Madahbee said in a statement. “What would be more surprising is if the mass? media paid attention and attempted to educate the public on the inhuman actions by its government that is happening right now.”
The report, in which food historian Ian Mosby discovered that more than 1,000 already-starving aboriginal children in residential schools and remote communities, surfaced on Tuesday July 16 in an interview he did with CBC Radio’s As It Happens.
The revelations came right in the middle of the Assembly of First Nations Annual General Assembly being held in Whitehorse, Yukon. The attending chiefs immediately introduced an emergency resolution “calling for swift action and redress,” Madahbee said. “The government must release all information on this matter without delay. We are mindful that this same government is withholding documents from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in our own discrimination complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations child welfare. This shameful delay must end. Action is required that is consistent with the Prime Minister’s apology for the residential schools that committed the Government of Canada to work towards healing and reconciliation. It is time to honour that promise.
Madahbee also called on mainstream Canadians to step up: “And we must say to everyone: Canada, this is your history. We must confront the ugly truths and move forward together.”