The Indian hospitals are a little known piece of so-called Canada’s history of colonization, institutionalization, segregation, and extermination.
As was the ongoing narrative on this land, “exposure” to Indigenous people was considered unsafe and unhealthy. The rates of Tuberculosis in the residential schools was astronomical and the make-shift sanitariums could no longer house the number of sick individuals.
Into the 40’s and 50’s, the hospitals became commonplace. They were staffed by often untrained personnel and faced overcrowding. Many of the patients came from the residential schools.
In these buildings, Indigenous peoples faced exceptionally poor healthcare and hygiene practises, unacceptable living conditions, old invasive treatments that were not being used in general hospitals, forced sterilizations, and medical experimentation. By this point in history, the practise of restraining patients was no longer acceptable in general hospitals, but was commonplace in these prisons.
In 2020, the reality of the existence of these buildings was made more public. There is currently a class action lawsuit in place for survivors and their families. Many of these did not close until the 1980s. I ask this, why has the government, churches, and medical field not made a public statement on these institutions? I also ask you this, how are Indigenous people ever to feel safe getting medical assistance when this is our history? And finally, even though these buildings no longer exist, why is it still acceptable by larger society to allow racist, often fatal, practises in our hospital on a daily basis in our current system?