Two more First Nations boys from northern Manitoba switched at birth

NORWAY HOUSE, Man. — Indigenous leaders say two men from a northern Manitoba First Nation have DNA evidence showing they were switched at birth — the second such alleged mix-up in the mid-1970s at the same federally run hospital.

The men, who are to share their story publicly Friday, were born at the Norway House Cree Nation hospital in January 1975. They still live in the community about 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

DNA tests revealed just a few days ago that the men are not biologically related to their parents.

“It’s disgraceful,” Manitoba’s former aboriginal affairs minister Eric Robinson, who has been working with the families, said Thursday.

“It’s really, really troubling.”

The revelation comes after two men from Garden Hill First Nation discovered last fall that they were switched at birth at the Norway House hospital in the same year.

Luke Monias and Norman Barkman were born in June 1975 and raised by each other’s families. They learned the truth through DNA tests last November.

Robinson said there was always suspicion among residents in Norway House about the latest case. He wouldn’t name the men before their news conference Friday.

Their families are coping as best they can, Robinson said, but they are in turmoil because their lives have been torn apart.

One of the fathers is an elder who shares the same name as his son.

“The boy he raised is known as Junior,” Robinson said.

“They’re upset and (saying), ‘How can this happen?’ They are confused and there is a bit of anger.”

When the first mix-up came to light, Robinson and others called on the federal government to investigate. Counselling was offered but no action appears to have been taken, Robinson said.

“This matter was just swept under the rug.”

Now, he and the Norway House First Nation are renewing the call for an inquiry so the families get the answers they deserve. The federal government must appoint an independent body to conduct a thorough investigation, Robinson suggested.

If this happened to four newborns at the same hospital, he asked, how many other indigenous babies were also switched at birth?

“Other cases may come forward,” he said.

“Twice in the same year in the same hospital with indigenous kids? It makes you question.”

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