October 07, 2016 - 3:28 PM
NORWAY HOUSE, Man. - The RCMP is investigating two cases of babies who were switched at birth at a northern Manitoba hospital more than 40 years ago.
The two cases involve four men, who went home with different parents from the Norway House hospital in 1975. They went public with the mix-ups in the past year after getting DNA tests.
The RCMP say its investigation will be separate from a review the federal government announced in August.
"The RCMP has an obligation to the families involved and to the public to determine if the incidents at the Norway House Indian Hospital were accidental or criminal in nature," Mounties said in a news release Friday.
RCMP spokesman Robert Cyrenne added that the force began the investigation on its own and the probe is still in its early stages.
"It's really basically to determine if there was any criminal intent for these babies being switched at birth," he said.
The passage of time may make things difficult, he acknowledged, but officers are hoping anyone with information will contact them.
"If they heard of something that happened within the hospital environment in that time, if they worked there — had relatives working there and heard stories — RCMP investigators would like to hear from them," Cyrenne said.
Luke Monias and Norman Barkman of Garden Hill First Nation revealed at a news conference last November that DNA tests proved they were switched at birth at the federally run hospital.
Two other men from Norway House, Leon Swanson and David Tait Jr., came forward with the same story in August. Results from DNA tests last month confirmed their switch.
Mounties were interviewing Swanson and Tait and their families Friday in Norway House, said former Manitoba aboriginal affairs minister Eric Robinson.
"I think, finally, we have somebody taking this matter seriously with these guys who've been wronged," said Robinson, who has been working with the four men.
He has previously said that he believes the confusion must have been criminal, and he still thinks so.
"You can pass it off once. And a second time ... kinda makes you wonder," Robinson said.
"Was it an act of racism? Was it an act of neglect?"
He said he has yet to get reach Monias and Barkman, but Swanson and Tait are welcoming the RCMP investigation. All four men and their families are to meet at the end of October with Health Minister Jane Philpott, he added.
The two cases have raised the question of whether other babies could have ended up with the wrong families. Health Canada reports 239 babies were born there in 1975.
Shortly after Swanson and Tait announced they were switched at birth, Health Canada announced it would offer free DNA tests to anyone born at the hospital before 1980. That's when the facility started fitting newborns with identification bands.
A spokesman has said that due to privacy reasons, he can't reveal whether anyone else has requested DNA tests.
— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016