Indian TB Hospital Document board
Indian Hospitals in Canada
‘Indian hospitals’ were racially segregated hospitals for the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada. The first Indian hospitals were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were operated by Christian missionaries, were supported by the federal government, and represented another means of advancing assimilationist objectives.
Indian hospitals initially functioned as tuberculosis (TB) sanatoriums. During the early 1900s, Indigenous people suffered from a high incidence of TB and other infectious diseases that were brought to Canada by European settlers. At the time, Indigenous people disproportionately suffered from TB and other diseases due to malnutrition, overcrowding, and other poor living conditions on reserves, in residential schools, and in northern communities. By the 1930s, medical ‘professionals’ warned of the threat of ‘Indian tuberculosis’ to Canadian society, and Indian hospitals were justified on the grounds of minimizing the non-Indigenous population’s exposure to the disease.
Shortly after the Second World War, the federal government embarked on the large-scale expansion of the Indian hospital system. While many community hospitals offering healthcare to non-Indigenous people were also constructed during this period, Indian hospitals were operated at approximately half the cost of community hospitals. As a result, most of the staff in Indian hospitals were poorly trained and the hospitals themselves were overcrowded, underfunded, and under-resourced. By 1960, the federal government operated 22 such hospitals together containing more than 2,200 beds.
Many Indigenous people were confined to Indian hospitals, which were often sites of physical, psychological, emotional, cultural, and sexual abuse. Amendments to the Indian Act in the 1950s required any Indigenous person suspected of being infected with the disease to undergo compulsory medical examination and treatment. The amendments also authorized the apprehension and detention of those infected and made it illegal for those who were admitted to an Indian hospital to leave before being discharged. Those who died in Indian hospitals were not
returned to their communities unless the costs were paid by family, which resulted in many patients being buried in unmarked graves far away from their local communities. Although most Indian hospitals had been closed by the early 1980s, survivors have begun to seek financial compensation and a formal acknowledgement of widespread mistreatment and abuse at Indian hospitals. In January 2018, a $1.1-billion class-action lawsuit was filed against the federal government on behalf of former patients. This board graphic attempts to shed light on just a few of the many complex aspects of Indian hospitals in