"I didn't realize that the rates of tuberculosis were that high. In the 1930s, tuberculosis was rampant in Canada itself, so it shouldn't be surprising then that it was also a problem in the residential schools."
Prof. Milloy of Trent University is the only outsider to have accessed the locked vault of Indian Affairs records through his role as a senior researcher for the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
In 1999, he published his research in a book titled A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System. Prof. Milloy expressed discomfort with the campaign of Mr. Annett and others to introduce language such as genocide and "aboriginal holocaust."
What government and church records do show, he said, is that the deaths were primarily due to the policy of paying churches on a per-capita basis to run the schools. Numerous letters indicate that because of the funding policy, churches would admit sick children and refuse to send ailing ones home. Pleas to the department for more funding fell on deaf ears.
"That's why there's so many kids sleeping in so few beds in so many dormitories across the country," Prof. Milloy said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with the idea of 'Let's get them sick with tuberculosis and wipe them out as a species on the earth.' It's the fact that the feds won't spend any money on this, and that's what it leads to."
As for Dr. Bryce, the man who first sounded the alarm, he was shuffled to another department. The position of chief medical officer was terminated and the government appears to have made no further effort to gather statistics on deaths at the schools. Ottawa did not take over control of all schools until 1969.
In 1922, after he retired, Dr. Bryce penned a diatribe against Ottawa's lack of response to his reports.
The title: The Story of a National Crime.
A HISTORY OF SHAME
Started before Confederation as part of religious missionary work, residential schools originally focused on replacing aboriginal beliefs with Christianity. More than 70 per cent of the schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church; the rest by the Anglican and United Churches.
The federal government started funding residential schools in 1874, using American Industrial Schools as the model for introducing manual labour and agricultural skills to natives. To encourage children to use English and French, they were physically punished for speaking their own languages.
OTTAWA TAKES OVER
There were 72 residential schools in 1948 and 9,368 students. Ottawa took full control of the schools in 1969 and most were closed during the 1970s. The last school shut its doors in 1996.
Stories of physical and sexual abuse began to emerge in the 1980s, and became major news when Manitoba Chief Phil Fontaine, now the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, went public with his story of sexual abuse as a student.
In April of 2006, Ottawa reached a $1.9-billion agreement with former students to settle their class-action lawsuits out of court and compensate for the loss of language and culture. Further money has been set aside to settle claims of physical and sexual abuse. Students have until Aug. 20 to accept the package. Bill Curry
Duncan Campbell Scott, a senior Indian Affairs official, talks about the inadequacy of the school buildings in a memorandum to Arthur Meighen, then Superintendent General of Indian Affairs. "They were unsanitary and they were undoubtedly chargeable with a very high death rate among the pupils."
A report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs says 33 students at the Sarcee school near Calgary are afflicted with tuberculosis.
W.M. Graham, Indian Commissioner for Saskatchewan, says in a letter to Mr. Scott: "We will have to do something to stop this indiscriminate admission of children without first passing a medical exam. ... I quite often hear from the Indians that they do not want to send their children to school as it is a place where they are sent to die."
Russell T. Ferrier, Superintendent of Indian Education, writes to Indian commissioners and agents, saying each child should be pronounced fit by a medical officer before being admitted to a school. "When a pupil's health becomes a matter of concern soon after admission, the consequent parental alarm and distrust militates against successful recruiting."
The Department of Indian Affairs announces that as a result of spending cutbacks, it cannot authorize admitting children with tuberculosis to a sanatorium or hospital unless the patient requires "care for relief of actual suffering." Karen Howlett