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More than 100 years ago, a Canadian doctor tried to sound the alarm on residential schools but historians say he was silenced by government officials. Indigenous advocates working to reclaim his legacy now say a great deal can be learned from his example. In the early part of the 20th century, medical health officer Dr. Peter H. Bryce repeatedly warned his superiors at the Department of Indian Affairs of the rampant spread of tuberculosis killing Indigenous children in residential schools. He spent months examining dozens of schools in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and found unsanitary conditions, poor health practices, buildings that were prone to fires, and a lack of ventilation. In a damning report to the government in 1907, initially hidden from the public by his bosses, he wrote “it’s almost as if the prime conditions of the outbreak of epidemics had been deliberately created.” John Milloy, historian and Trent University professor, said it was one of the first attempts to flag the “dreadful health conditions” of the schools to the broader Canadian public.

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