Society

Men From Same Tribe Learn They Were Switched At Birth

| by Kathryn Schroeder
David Tait Jr.David Tait Jr.

After more than 40 years, two men from the same native community in Canada discovered they were switched at birth.

The northern Manitoba First Nation men, Leon Swanson and David Tait Jr., were born three days apart in 1975 at Norway House Indian Hospital, CBC News reports.

The men grew up knowing one another and have both remained living in Norway House Cree Nation as adults.

"What happened here is lives were stolen," Eric Robinson, a former NDP member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly for Keewatinook, said. "You can't describe it as anything less than that."

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Tait wants to know how the switch happened.

“I want answers so bad,” he told a news conference on Aug. 26, according to The Star. “Forty years gone.”

“I don’t know what to say," Swanson said as he wept. "I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say."

This is the second switched at birth incident that has been uncovered at the federally-run hospital. Both took place in 1975.

“I can’t describe this matter as anything less than criminal,” Robinson said.

“We can live with one mistake, but two mistakes of a similar nature is not acceptable,” he added. “We can’t slough it off as being a mistake. It was a criminal act.”

Robinson wants the federal government to launch an independent investigation and provide counseling for the affected families.

“It’s something [the government] can’t sweep under the carpet," he said. "There are lingering questions out there."

“These two gentlemen are not the only victims," Robinson continued. "We have families who are deeply hurt by this. We have siblings ... that are hurt by this."

A DNA test confirmed Swanson and Tait were raised by the biological mother of the other.

It was the initial switched at birth case at the hospital Swanson and Tait were born in that prompted their DNA test because they have always been suspicious of the similarities they each share with the other’s parents, according to CBC News.

Fedeal health minister Jane Philpott finds the tragic situation indescribable.

“It’s impossible to describe how tragic this situation is, obviously, for the two gentlemen in question, but (also) for their families, for the entire community,” she said in a statement obtained by The Star.

“We have reached out to the gentlemen to make sure that they have the appropriate mental-health resources ... to deal with this very unfortunate circumstance,” Philpott said. “It’s fundamentally important that we understand how this could have happened at the time.”

She said an independent third party will be hired to investigate what happened and whether there may be more switched at birth cases from the hospital.

"The results of this review will be made public,” Philpott said, according to CBC News. “Cases like this are an unfortunate reminder to Canadians of how urgent the need is to provide all Indigenous people with high-quality health care. The government of Canada remains deeply committed to renewing a nation-to-nation relationship with all Indigenous peoples. I offer my sympathy to the families in this difficult time."

Sources: CBC NewsThe Star / Photo Credit: CBC News

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