Families and ex-patients of ‘Indian hospitals’ want records

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Several activists for indigenous causes and members of First Nations are demanding that the federal government have access to the files of so-called “hospitals for the Indians”.

Ottawa had established a network of hospitals across the country in the 1930s, adding more facilities after the Second World War.

These hospitals were to care for Aboriginal people suffering from tuberculosis, or even those whom doctors thought had the disease.

They turned into segregationist establishments for all the indigenous peoples who were treated there for all kinds of reasons, such as childbirth, broken bones or burns.

These hospitals closed or merged into existing health networks in 1981 after concerns were raised about the quality of care for patients, some of whom were forcibly confined.

Some patients who died at these hospitals were buried in unmarked graves because the federal government refused to pay transportation costs to return the bodies to families.

Today communities want answers about what happened in these hospitals. In particular, they wish to have access to patient files.

The Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations expressed a willingness to provide access to these records after a $1.1 billion class action lawsuit was filed in 2018 on behalf of Indigenous people who received treatment at these facilities.

A department spokesman, Kyle Fournier, said the government was trying to settle the lawsuit out of court. He suggested that the department was ready to provide access to the files.


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