WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Canadian government is setting up an independent investigation after DNA evidence indicated two men from a northern Manitoba indigenous community were switched at birth.
David Tait Jr. was born three days after Leon Swanson in the winter of 1975 at the Norway House Indian Hospital in the western Canadian province.
For years, people in the tiny community had gossiped about why the two men didn’t look much like their parents.
The two men say they were devastated after learning that they have been calling the wrong people their family for decades. Tait said at a tearful news conference on Friday that he wants answers.
The government believes it’s the second case of being switched at birth to occur at the hospital. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said it’s an unfortunate reminder of how urgent the need is to provide Indigenous First Nation people with better health care.
Andrew Mackendrick, a spokesman for Philpott, confirmed the plans for a third-party review on Sunday. Philpott said she was deeply troubled to learn of the second case and her department has offered the full range of mental and spiritual support.
The department has been working to review files and historical documents from the hospital during the time period in question.
“Given these latest developments, the department will be moving quickly to engage the services of an independent third party to do a dedicated and thorough investigation of all available hospital records from the period to determine what happened and whether there is any other cause for concern beyond the two cases identified,” the minister said in a statement.
DNA evidence has confirmed that Tait Jr., 41, is the son of Charlotte Mason — the woman who raised Swanson as her son — and not Frances Tait. Further DNA tests are expected to show that Swanson, Tait Jr.’s life-long friend, is the biological son of Frances Tait, the men said.
Last November, two men from the nearby Garden Hill First Nation community, Luke Monias and Norman Barkman, discovered through DNA tests that they also were switched at birth at the same hospital in 1975.
Manitoba’s former aboriginal affairs minister Eric Robinson has called the mistakes criminal.