Newspaper article The Canadian Press

TB Vaccine Tested on Aboriginals, but Living Conditions Not Fixed: Research

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

TB Vaccine Tested on Aboriginals, but Living Conditions Not Fixed: Research

Article excerpt

Government tested TB vaccine on natives: research

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Historical research reveals that government officials tested tuberculosis vaccines on impoverished aboriginal people during the 1930s instead of fixing poor living conditions that spread the disease.

It's another example of how officials felt they could use aboriginal people as test subjects and looked for cheap solutions instead of fixing underlying problems, says Maureen Lux, a Brock University medical historian whose research is to be released in a book early next year.

"If (a vaccine) could provide resistance to TB, then we didn't need to deal with the economic situation that was causing the problem," said Lux, who first exposed the TB tests in a 1998 paper.

Last week, it was revealed that nutritional experiments were done on unwitting aboriginals in similar straits during the 1940s. The news has provoked widespread outrage and rallies across the country.

Lux, who specializes in the history of aboriginal people and the medical system, looked at conditions on reserves in the Qu'Appelle region of southern Saskatchewan in the early part of the 20th century.

"People lived in log huts," she said.

"They didn't have the cash for windows or doors. Living conditions were fairly crude."

Tuberculosis was rampant.

In 1921, officials found that 92.5 per cent of aboriginal children tested positive for exposure to the infectious respiratory disease -- almost twice the percentage of non-aboriginal children. Overall health was so poor that the child mortality rate surpassed the birth rate.

Lux, whose research resurfaced in a report by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network earlier this week, found that officials understood the link between health and living conditions.

In 1930, a showpiece settlement was built at the File Hills Farm Colony. …

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