Indigenous class action aimed at dental work done by ISC

A list of Indigenous Canadians planning to join a future class action lawsuit against Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is growing at a rapid rate.

The potential future suit is being organized by the Band Members Advocacy Alliance Association of Canada (BMAAAC), with the help of a Calgary-based firm.

Brandon Gabriel is BMAAAC’s director of communications, and he said the response it has received recently has left them inundated with messages.

“The interest in this is substantial. Our call volume and email response has been enormous,” he told CTV News on Wednesday.

The suit focuses on Indigenous students in the 60s, onward, who received dental care from ISC, or Indian Affairs Canada.

(Photo submitted anonymously)

For many students, including Peepeekisis’ Melissa McKay, their experience involved dentists who would take healthy teeth from students, drill prior to the freezing setting in, or without any at all, and provided the dental work, typically done in basements of hospitals.

“I remember laying there with your mouth open, and they’d put that rubber over your mouth and it covers you … and the needles, they’d do work without waiting for the freezing to set in,” McKay said.

“Ever since then, soon as I go to the dentist … I have very bad anxiety attacks. I can’t breathe, I get sick. I have to run to the bathroom … I’m shaking. It’s as soon as I sit in that chair, that smell. That’s that trigger, it takes me right back — then I grab my face because I’m waiting for that slap.”

McKay detailed the abuse in an exclusive interview with CTV News on Tuesday.

She said the first time she was taken to see the dentist, she was bussed from the day school in Peepeekisis 18 kilometres to neighbouring Balcarres. There, she would visit the basement of the old hospital, which sits dormant today, just a few feet away from Balcarres Community School.

From then on, she spent years at Balcarres School, where she was taken back to that same basement annually for her schooling years.

ISC did not respond to a request for statement by deadline Wednesday.

McKay said old stories of the dentist who did the work would include them being paid by the tooth. She thought it was just a story the older kids told the younger kids, but according to Gabriel, she may not be far off.

“Based on some of the testimonials we have been receiving from the potential litigants of this situation that there are common narratives that dentists were paid by tooth,” he said.

“We’re doing our best with the amount of people responding to this, its been substantial. We ask that people remain patient. We’re going to do our best to make sure we get a hold of them, and they be heard.”

Anyone looking to join the future class action is asked to visit the website.

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