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Ottawa, Feb 25 (Canadian-Media): A 98-year-old document on Ottawa's treatment of sick First Nations children from Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) had unveiled a part of Canada's history hidden in the darkness of locked archives, media reports said.
Library & Archives Canada. Image credit: Facebook page
Majority of old Indian Affairs health files were reportedly still locked away by LAC.
LAC had initially refused to release the document based on the Access to Information and Privacy Act that exempts files covered by solicitor-client privilege.
Edward , the researcher wanted to study First Nation students' case who contacted tuberculosis and were sent for treatment to residential schools as part of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.
But when Sadowskie's request for the release of the document was refused b y LAC, he filed a complaint with the federal Office of the Information Commissioner last October and an investigation started.
Sadowski learnt from LAC, a little over a week after CBC News first reported on the case, that it had reconsidered the case and decided to release the document without restrictions.
"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," Laurie Meijer Drees, chair of the First Nations studies department at Vancouver Island University was reported to state.
LAC still keeps all records produced by the federal National Health and Welfare Department (NHWD) locked in their archives, said Drees.
It was in 1945 that NHWD had taken over First Nation and Inuit health care from Indian Affairs.
It was by individual requests under the Access to Information Act, said Drees, that health records produced by Indian Affairs were accessible.
"You can't actually research this topic as as researcher because it could take you 100 years to get them," she said.
The released document, Sadowski said, revealed the steps taken by Ottawa to deal with tuberculosis outbreaks in First Nations communities were made worse by residential schools, while keeping costs down.
The 98-year-old document was from the time when Duncan Campbell Scott was deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs.
Amendments to the Indian Act were reportedly made by Scott in 1927 making it mandatory for First Nations children to attend residential schools.
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.
It was reportedly 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, J. H. Edmison.
Last month two law firms had launched a $1.1 billion class action lawsuit against Ottawa over abuse suffered by Indian hospital patients.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)