#LibraryandArchiveCanada, #LAC, #AccesstoInformationandPrivacyAct, #EdwardSadowskie, #FirstNation, #LaurieMeijerDrees. #FirstNationandInuithealthcare
Ottawa, Feb 22 (Canadian-Media): Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) move to finally release a 98-year-old document on Ottawa's treatment of sick First Nations children, said the researchers this week, unveiled a part of Canada's history that had been hidden in the darkness of locked archives, media reports said.
Majority of old Indian Affairs health files, official reports said, were still locked away by LAC.
LAC initial refusal to release the document was based on provisions of the Access to Information and Privacy Act that exempts files covered by solicitor-client privilege.
Edward Sadowskie had requested the release of the document to study the case of First Nation students who contacted tuberculosis and were sent for treatment, as part of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.
When he failed to get the document released, he filed a complaint last October with the federal Office of the Information Commissioner which opened an investigation.
A little over a week after CBC News first reported on the case, Sadowski learnt from LAC that it had reconsidered the case and decided to release the document without restrictions.
Laurie Meijer Drees, chair of the First Nations studies department at Vancouver Island University, said the released file was just a part of group of documents which contain the descriptions of the ideology, policy and decisions on how the federal government had been handling health care for Indigenous peoples.
"There are hundreds of documents in archives that should be opened but are not, that we need to look at to get a better impression of what went on," said Drees.
Drees said LAC still keeps all records produced by the federal National Health and Welfare Department locked in their archives.
The department took over First Nation and Inuit health care from Indian Affairs in 1945.
Health records produced by Indian Affairs were only accessible, said Drees, through individual requests under the Access to Information Act.
"You can't actually research this topic as as researcher because it could take you 100 years to get them," she said.
Sadowski said the document revealed the steps Ottawa took to deal with tuberculosis outbreaks in First Nations communities, which were made worse by residential schools, while keeping costs down.
The document was from the time when Duncan Campbell Scott was deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs.
It was reportedly Scott who made amendments to the Indian Act that made it mandatory for First Nations children to attend residential schools.
Scott once stated that Indian Affairs' goal was to find a "final solution of our Indian problem."
An Indian Affairs letter of 1920 described the case of a young girl with tubercular spine and the case of a child with eye trouble who could not be properly treated in their home but whose parents refused to permit them to be taken to a hospital for treatment.
Sadowski said the Indian Act was amended by 1927, giving the department the powers it wanted.
A 1926 letter from the United Church to Scott revealed why parents didn't want their sick children taken away for treatment to places like Selkirk, Manitoba.
"The Indians seem to object to their children being sent to Selkirk, as they say they never see them again, because of the distance, and because most of them go there to die," said the letter signed by the United Church's general secretary Rev. J. H. Edmison.
Edmison was writing to Scott about the possible construction of an "isolation hospital" for children with tuberculosis near the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario.
A $1.1 billion class action lawsuit was reportedly launched last month by two law firms against Ottawa over abuse suffered by "Indian hospital" patients.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)