Health Canada says it will offer free DNA tests to anyone who suspects they were switched at birth at the Norway House Indian Hospital, following two cases involving four men in northern Manitoba who learned they went home with the wrong parents more than 40 years ago.
“The department will be offering DNA testing to any individuals born at Norway House Hospital in the mid-1970s,” said Health Canada spokesman Eric Morrissette in an email Tuesday. “Testing can be arranged directly with the regional office or through an individual’s local health care provider.”
Morrissette also confirmed to Global News the tests will be provided free of charge and the agency is taking steps to hire an independent third-party to conduct a full review of documents from the government-run facility at the Norway House Cree Nation.
Health Canada’s announcement comes after a DNA test revealed two Manitoba men who were born at Norway House Indian Hospital in 1975 were switched at birth.
Leon Swanson and David Tait Jr., both 41, held an emotional press conference on Friday and demanded answers after the tests confirmed that they had each been raised by the other man’s biological parents.
WATCH: Two Manitoba men discover they were switched at birth
Swanson and Tait were born on Jan. 31, 1975, and Feb. 3, 1975, at Norway House Indian Hospital, which was previously operated by the federal government.
Former Manitoba aboriginal affairs minister Eric Robinson called the two mix-ups “unacceptable.”
“I can’t describe this matter as anything less than criminal,” he told reporters. “What happened here is lives were stolen. You can’t describe it as anything less than that.”
WATCH: Men who learned they were switched at birth call on Federal government to hold an investigation
Both men live in Norway House, a remote northern community roughly 460 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
The discovery comes less than a year after two other men learned they were switched at birth at the same hospital.
Luke Monias and Norman Barkman came forward in November 2015 after they discovered they were not the biological children of their parents. Both men grew up in the remote first nation community of Garden Hill and said they eventually noticed they resembled each other’s family more than their own.
“I was deeply troubled to learn of this second case of two men who claimed to have been switched at birth at Norway House Hospital,” Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said in a statement Friday.
Health Canada has said it will make the findings of its independent reviews public.
“Since the first case came to light in November 2015, Health Canada officials have been looking into the policies and procedures at the Norway House Hospital at the time of the incident,” the agency said.
“Currently, Norway House Hospital has rigorous policies and procedures in place to prevent this type of incident, including immediately fitting infants with identification bands.”
*With files from Katie Dangerfield