Bill Curry and Karen Howlett
Globe and Mail April 24, 2007
As many as half of the aboriginal children who attended the early years of residential schools died of tuberculosis, despite repeated warnings to the federal government that overcrowding, poor sanitation and a lack of medical care were creating a toxic breeding ground for the rapid spread of the disease, documents show.
A Globe and Mail examination of documents in the National Archives reveals that children continued to die from tuberculosis at alarming rates for at least four decades after a senior official at the Department of Indian Affairs initially warned in 1907 that schools were making no effort to separate healthy children from those sick with the highly contagious disease.
Peter Bryce, the department’s chief medical officer, visited 15 Western Canadian residential schools and found at least 24 per cent of students had died from tuberculosis over a 14-year period. The report suggested the numbers could be higher, noting that in one school alone, the death toll reached 69 per cent.
Map of residential schools in Canada throughout their history: http://tinyurl.com/yrwmwq
With less than four months to go before Ottawa officially settles out of court with most former students, a group calling itself the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared Residential School Children is urging the government to acknowledge this period in the tragic residential-schools saga ˆ and not just the better-known cases of physical and sexual abuse.
Last week, Liberal MP Gary Merasty wrote to Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice asking the government to look into the concerns. Mr. Prentice’s spokesman, Bill Rogers, told The Globe that departmental officials have been asked to meet with native groups.
Some of their stories, including tales of children buried in unmarked graves beside the schools, are told in a new documentary by Kevin Annett, a former United Church minister, titled Unrepentant: Kevin Annett and Canada’s Genocide.
Mr. Annett, as well as some academics, argue that the government’s handling, combined with Canada’s official policy of removing children from their homes for 10 months each year to attend distant schools, does indeed fit the United Nations definition of genocide….READ MORE