Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Apology sought over nutritional experiments

AFN demands release of records on testing of aboriginal people

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Canada's largest aboriginal group passed an emergency resolution Thursday based on a report the federal government once conducted nutritional experiments on hungry native children and adults.

The resolution at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon, calls on the Harper government to apologize for the experiments conducted between 1942 and 1952 on 1,300 people.

Government officials have said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2008 apology for the harm done by residential schools was intended to cover all wrongdoing against aboriginals. But chiefs at the meeting are saying that's not good enough.

"The chiefs-in-assembly will not accept the apology as catch-all recognition for all federal policy past, present and ongoing which have and continue to negatively impact aboriginal peoples," the draft resolution states.

'The chiefs-in-assembly will not accept the apology as catch-all recognition for all federal policy'

It also demands the government release all records pertaining to any other tests on aboriginal people.

"The chiefs-in-assembly call on the federal government to work immediately to provide Indian residential schools survivors, First Nations and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission full and complete access to all records held by the federal government on experiments conducted on aboriginal communities and aboriginal children in residential schools."

The Harper government has resisted some document requests from the commission, which has been tasked with compiling a complete record of aboriginal experiences during the residential school era.

The resolution comes in response to a recently released paper by University of Guelph food historian Ian Mosby. He delved into historical documents and discovered federal scientists used malnourished and hungry aboriginals on reserves and in residential schools to study the effects of nutritional supplements.

The subjects were provided or denied vitamins, minerals and some foods instead of being properly fed. Some dental services were also withdrawn because researchers were concerned healthier teeth and gums would skew results.

Full disclosure of any records that could reveal other such abuses is essential to the commission's work, said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.

"That is in part the feeling you get when the government is... not fully co-operating with the release of documentation -- what more is there?" said Atleo.

Some of the experiments were first detailed in the May 2000 issue of Anglican Journal. In the article, author David Napier interviewed Dr. L.B. Pett, who supervised the research for the precursor to Health Canada.

Pett, a former head of the nutritional division of the health department, defended the study.

"It was not a deliberate attempt to leave children to develop cavities except for a limited time or place or purpose, and only then to study the effects of vitamin C or flouride," Pett told Napier.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 A14

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