Jane Philpott, Health Minister, Has 'Moving' Meeting With Manitoba Men Switched At Birth

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WINNIPEG — Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott had an emotional meeting Monday with some indigenous men from northern Manitoba who were switched at birth more than 40 years ago and only recently found out.

"It was a moving conversation, hearing the stories of these man and the impact this has had upon their lives,'' Philpott said following the more-than-three hour meeting which also included relatives and indigenous leaders.

"They spoke about how difficult this has been and also about their very sincere need and desire to heal from the trauma they have endured from this.''

The meeting stems from the discovery last year, through DNA testing, that Luke Monias and Norman Barkman ended up with each other's parents after being born at the Norway House Indian Hospital in 1975.

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Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, left, is seen alongside Eric Robinson, spokeman for the families of individuals switched at birth, at a press conference in Winnipeg on Monday.

This summer, DNA tests revealed a similar mix-up involving two other men born at the same hospital in the same year — Leon Swanson and David Tait Jr.

Philpott has called the mix-ups appalling and has launched an external review of what happened. The RCMP is also investigating.

"The families are happy with the steps moving forward."

Only three of the men involved were able to make it to Monday's meeting. They did not speak with the media afterward.

Gilbert Fredette, deputy chief of the Norway House Cree Nation, said Philpott's words were appreciated.

"The families are happy with the steps moving forward,'' he said. "What they're getting now is swift action from the government.''

The men require counselling and in some cases addiction treatment, said Eric Robinson, a former Manitoba deputy premier who has been helping the men.

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Deputy Chief Gilbert Fredette of Norway House First Nation, left, speaks at a press conference alongside spokesman for the families of individuals switched at birth, Eric Robinson, centre, and Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott in Winnipeg on Monday.

The men were bullied as kids because they didn't look like other family members, Robinson said. The bullying has grown since the mix-ups were made public.

"The remarks being made in the community have intensified.'''

Calls for an apology in Parliament

Robinson called what happened a crime and said the four men are contemplating legal action. He also called on the federal government to formally apologize in the House of Commons.

He said Philpott agreed to consider the request.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful to have four people in attendance in the House of Commons while the prime minister delivered an apology to these four victims?''

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