Class-ac­tion suit filed over In­dian Hospi­tals

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Chris Purdy

Ann Hardy was 10 years old when she con­tracted tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, said good­bye to her Metis fam­ily in Fort Smith, N.W.T., and was taken to the Charles Cam­sell In­dian Hospi­tal in Ed­mon­ton in 1969.

Over five months, she was treated for the in­fec­tious dis­ease in the seg­re­gated fa­cil­ity but said she was also sex­u­ally as­saulted sev­eral times by an X-ray tech­ni­cian.

An 11-year-old girl she shared a room with also re­ceived small gifts and night time vis­its from an or­derly, she says.

“He would crawl into her bed and he did sex­u­ally as­sault her,” re­called Hardy, now 59.

“I felt guilt for many, many years be­cause I wasn’t able to help her.”

Hardy is now hop­ing to help all the for­mer pa­tients she can as the lead plain­tiff in a pro­posed class-ac­tion law­suit al­leg­ing abuse at the 29 In­dian Hospi­tals the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ran from 1945 un­til the last one closed in 1981.

A state­ment of claim filed last week in Toronto fed­eral court says In­dige­nous pa­tients suf­fered con­sis­tent phys­i­cal and sex­ual as­saults, were de­prived of food and drink, force-fed their own vomit and un­nec­es­sar­ily re­strained in their beds.

The suit fur­ther de­scribes the hospi­tals as un­san­i­tary, crum­bling and staffed by many for­eign-trained doc­tors who failed to qual­ify to prac­tise medicine in Canada.

“Canada ig­nored, re­mained wil­fully blind and per­mit­ted harm to pa­tient class mem­bers in or­der to avoid scru­tiny and un­wanted pub­lic­ity about its in­ap­pro­pri­ate, com­mon prac­tices and pro­ce­dures con­cern­ing In­dian Hospi­tals,” says the suit.

Steve Cooper, a lawyer in Sher­wood Park, said his firm and two oth­ers in On­tario are rep­re­sent­ing about 30 for­mer pa­tients in the law­suit so far. He ex­pects there will be more.

“These are large in­sti­tu­tions that were op­er­at­ing for decades,” he said. “If the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem told us any­thing, it’s prob­a­bly larger than we ex­pect at the be­gin­ning, and we ex­pect some­thing in the range of 10,000 peo­ple.”

A state­ment of de­fence has yet to be filed and a judge must first ap­prove the suit as a class ac­tion.

An email from In­dige­nous and North­ern Af­fairs Canada said the gov­ern­ment is work­ing to re­solve the mat­ter out of court.

“Canada is com­mit­ted to right­ing his­tor­i­cal wrongs com­mit­ted against In­dige­nous peo­ple,” said the email. “Canada be­lieves that the best way to ad­dress out­stand­ing is­sues and achieve rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with In­dige­nous peo­ple is through ne­go­ti­a­tion and dialogue rather than lit­i­ga­tion.”


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