Statement by AFN National Executive on Report of Impoverished Indigenous Children Used as Subjects in Government Experiments

WHITEHORSE, July 17, 2013 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Executive issued the following statement today on reports that impoverished, hungry First Nations children were used as unwitting research subjects by the Canadian government during the 1940s - 1950s. National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated:

"This report has sent a shockwave through First Nations in Canada and should be no less shocking to all Canadians and beyond.  The reports of these studies, in which more than a thousand Indigenous children were denied essential nutrition and in some cases deliberately starved, were reported as far back as 2000 but did not gain national attention. Sadly, I have a deeply personal connection as my home community of Ahousaht was one of the communities that had these studies imposed on them unknowingly. My elders and family members were exposed to this cruel and inhumane treatment where our children were treated like lab rats.

Canadians need to understand that their own history is one of First Nations being exposed to social engineering and treated as less than human. This is a long line of experience that extends through the residential schools, forced relocations and the ultimate attempt at social engineering, the Indian Act that tried to wipe out our identity and ways of life overnight. Canadians must understand that we are not the authors of our misfortune but we must be masters of our future. We are here only because of the strength and resilience of our Elders, peoples and cultures. It is time to stop blaming the victim and time for Canada to work with us to partners on a path to progress, to recognize our inherent rights, title and Treaties and our right to self-determination. This kind of horror would never have happened if First Nations were in control of our own lives and communities.

This report has ignited a firestorm here at our Annual General Assembly in Whitehorse and galvanized Chiefs to table an emergency resolution calling for swift action and redress. The government must release all information on this matter without delay. We are mindful that this same government is withholding documents from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in our own discrimination complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations child welfare. This shameful delay must end. Action is required that is consistent with the Prime Minister's apology for the residential schools that committed the Government of Canada to work towards healing and reconciliation. It is time to honour that promise.

And we must say to everyone: Canada, this is your history. We must confront the ugly truths and move forward together."

The emergency resolution is expected to be discussed Wednesday afternoon at the AFN Annual General Assembly. Plenary sessions are webcasted on the AFN website at

The AFN's 34th Annual General Assembly started on July 16 and will end on July 18 in Whitehorse, Yukon.

The Assembly of First Nation is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.  Follow #AFNAGA for all Assembly updates and highlights.

SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations

For further information:

Don Kelly, AFN Communications Director 613-292-2787 or

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-314-8157 or

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-292-0857 or

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