Archive photos of Canadian students at the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario.
At a memorial service this week, the Presbyterian Church of Canada specifically apologized to the surviving students of an infamous dormitory school for aboriginal children.
Gathered on the grounds where the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School once stood in Ontario, the former students held a vigil for native Canadian children who were ripped from their families and forced into residential schools run by churches and funded by the government.
Some wept as church representative Peter Bush told them, “I want to acknowledge that at Cecilia Jeffrey, there was physical abuse and sexual abuse and emotional abuse. For that, I am profoundly and deeply sorry,” he said, according to CBC News.
“We sinned, and I am sorry for that.”
Photo courtesy of The Presbyterian Church of Canada
Presbyterian archives photo of dormitory school classroom in 1960.
A recent study revealed that children at the government-run schools were unwitting subjects in medical and nutritional experiments.
In the 1940s and 1950s, researchers at Cecilia Jeffrey and five other dormitory schools kept students on severely low diets, administering vitamins to some to gauge the effectiveness of the supplements.
Vitamins and mineral supplements were new medical products at the time and scientists were keen to track their benefits to humans.
Former students at Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School demand full disclosure of what was done to them after revelations they had been subjected to medical experiments.
But the Canada experiments went beyond that. Children had their milk rations cut and were denied dental care so as not to interfer with the effects of being kept on a starvation-level diet.
The study, conducted by Canadian food historian Ian Mosby, is the latest atrocity to come to light from the government program of taking aborigional children from their families and installing them in dormitory schools across the country, where they were banned from speaking their native tongues, forced to attend Christian church services, and subjected to physical and sexual abuse by staff members including priests and nuns.
Established in the late 1800s, the last residential school closed in 1996.
The dining hall at the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora.
In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology on behalf of the government. A reconciliation committee has been established as well as a $ 1.9 billion compensation package for tens of thousands of children who went through the schools.
“We had thought that we’d somewhat come to peace with some issues,” Richard Green said at Wednesday’s memorial in Kenora, Ontario. “Then there’s ongoing revelations of other events happening,” he said.
Another recent revelation concerned a 1954 report that showed a doctor and a nurse experimented with various means of treatment for chronic ear infections that plagued their young charges.
In some cases, the children became deaf. Treatments included teaching the children to pour hot water into their ears and irrigating infected ear canals with Merthiolate.
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