A controversial report in the journal Social History - recounting details of grossly unethical 'nutritional research' carried out by the Canadian government on native Indian children in the 1940s and 50s - has sparked outrage among Canada's aboriginal community.
The article, 'Admistering Colonial Science', describes a range of trials run by three key Canadian scientists to discover the effects of different nutritional interventions on malnourished children. Thousands of Indians from reserves and church schools took part in the trials. Many of them were, for scientific purposes, denied basic dietary requirements and health care, putting their short and long-term health in jeopardy.
In one trial, after the discovery of widespread malnourishment in Northern Manitoba, the government deliberately withheld vitamin supplements from 175 children so as to create a 'control group' for impending research. In another trial, 1000 children from state-funded boarding schools were given less than half the necessary daily intake of milk, thus creating a 'baseline' against which to test vitamin C supplements. Later, children from six schools were denied dental care.
As Nature reported, the Assembly of First Nations has demanded the release of all information relating to the studies. The Aboriginal affairs department labeled the experiments "abhorrent", and said they had given 900 documents to a commission investigating abuses in residential schools.