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Canada hospital not charged after switching men at birth

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Published: 12:07 GMT, Sep 3, 2017 |
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Four indigenous men from remote communities in Manitoba only recently found they were not related to their families after taking DNA tests.

A review by Health Canada found the switches at Norway House Indian Hospital appeared accidental.

The families say they are still “filled with questions of what would their lives have been like”.

Leon Swanson and David Tait Jr revealed last August they were swapped in the government-run Norway House Hospital in 1975.

DNA testing has confirmed that they were sent home with each other’s biological parents shortly after they were born. They know each other and continue to live in Norway House Cree Nation, a community of about 5,000 people.

The same thing happened to Luke Monias and Norman Barkman, of Garden Hill First Nation.

Staff Sgt Jared Hall, with the Manitoba branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, called it an “unfortunate accident” without malice.

After the switches were made public, the federal health department began an independent investigation. In Canada, health care is generally administered by the province, except on reserves, where it is administered by the federal government.

The review found that the mistakes were accidental, likely due to the hospital not properly labelling the babies with identification bands at birth.

“The information gathered by the investigators has left the families filled with questions of what would their lives have been like if the Norway House hospital had followed standard procedures,” Bill Gange, lawyer for the families, wrote in a statement.

The two cases only came to light in the last two years. First Mr Monias and Mr Barkman discovered the switch. Then, after hearing about their case, Mr Tait and Mr Swanson confirmed their own switch.

Mr Tait’s adopted parents have said the ordeal has brought the families closer together, and they will continue to treat their sons as one of their own.

“We agreed we are going to be one family,” David Tait Sr said last year.

Manitoba’s former Aboriginal affairs minister Eric Robertson has called the hospital’s negligence “criminal” and said today’s news offers little peace to the indigenous community.

“Regrettably, it shows that Indian people received second-rate treatment when it came to health in those days and perhaps, some would argue, to this day,” he told reporters.

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