First Nations leaders demand apology for nutritional experiments

by Stephen Petrina on July 18, 2013

CBC News, July 17, 2013– First Nations leaders are demanding an apology from the federal government after it was revealed that Canada ran nutritional experiments on malnourished aboriginal children and adults during and after the Second World War.

Recently published research by Canadian food historian Ian Mosby has revealed that at least 1,300 aboriginal people — most of them children — were used as test subjects in the 1940s and ’50s by researchers looking at the effectiveness of vitamin supplements. [See “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942–1952″]

The research began in 1942 on about 300 Cree in Norway House in northern Manitoba. Plans were later developed for research on about 1,000 hungry aboriginal children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Shubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

Vivian Ketchum, whose mother attended St. Mary’s Residential School in Kenora, told CBC News that hearing of the experiments has brought her sorrow and anger to a new level. “Immediately my thoughts were to my parents. Like, I thought the residential school issues [were] bad enough, and now this on top of it?” Ketchum said Wednesday.

Mosby said his research puts the spotlight on a little-known event that was perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of government policy toward aboriginal people. “It shows Canadians the mentality behind Canada’s Indian administration during this period,” he said. “It seems that little good came out of the studies in terms of scientific knowledge.”

‘Abhorrent and completely unacceptable’

In a statement, the federal government said officials are looking into the matter. “If this story is true, this is abhorrent and completely unacceptable,” the statement read in part.

Read More: CBC News