Hungry Aboriginal kids used in nutritional experiments: AFN reacts

by: Obert Madondo | Published July 18, 2013, by The Canadian Progressive

First Nations demand a better deal from the Canadian Government during a massive December 2012 protest on Parliament Hill. (Photo: Obert Madondo)

First Nations demand a better deal from the Canadian Government during a massive December 2012 protest on Parliament Hill. (Photo: Obert Madondo)

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) says the revelation that Canadian officials used malnourished Aboriginal populations in nutritional experiments has “sent a shockwave through First Nations in Canada and should be no less shocking to all Canadians and beyond.”

As I blogged yesterday, hungry aboriginal kids and adults were used as unwitting subjects of nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats during and after World War II. Ian Mosby, a historian of food nutrition and fellow at the University of Guelph, unraveled the diabolical experiments. His findings were published in a paper titled Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942–1952, featured in the May 2013 issue of the scholarly journal, Histoire sociale/Social History.

“Canadians need to understand that their own history is one of First Nations being exposed to social engineering and treated as less than human,” the AFN National Executive said in a statement issued Wednesday. ” This is a long line of experience that extends through the residential schools, forced relocations and the ultimate attempt at social engineering, the Indian Act that tried to wipe out our identity and ways of life overnight.”

Here’s the full text of the AFN statement:

WHITEHORSE, July 17, 2013 – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Executive issued the following statement today on reports that impoverished, hungry First Nations children were used as unwitting research subjects by the Canadian government during the 1940s – 1950s. National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated:

“This report has sent a shockwave through First Nations in Canada and should be no less shocking to all Canadians and beyond.  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.

Canadians need to understand that their own history is one of First Nations being exposed to social engineering and treated as less than human. This is a long line of experience that extends through the residential schools, forced relocations and the ultimate attempt at social engineering, the Indian Act that tried to wipe out our identity and ways of life overnight. Canadians must understand that we are not the authors of our misfortune but we must be masters of our future. We are here only because of the strength and resilience of our Elders, peoples and cultures. It is time to stop blaming the victim and time for Canada to work with us as partners on a path to progress, to recognize our inherent rights, title and Treaties and our right to self-determination. This kind of horror would never have happened if First Nations were in control of our own lives and communities.

This report has ignited a firestorm here at our Annual General Assembly in Whitehorse and galvanized Chiefs to table an emergency resolution calling for swift action and redress. 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.

And we must say to everyone: Canada, this is your history. We must confront the ugly truths and move forward together.”

The AFN was expected to pass an emergency resolution on the issue Wednesday.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.