Lifting the Neptunian Veil: Happy Canada Day from the Charles Camsell Hospital

Ever since I looked at Canada’s natal chart and discovered that it has Neptune on the Ascendant, I’ve noticed all the ways that this has manifested, past and present. Back in January, I wrote:

Another dark version of Canada’s Aries rising/Neptune conjunct the Ascendant are the actions that Canada has taken against the Indigenous population. It’s easy for someone like me, a middle class 21st century descendant of white settlers, to embrace the polite Canadian stereotype. I can only imagine that an Indigenous Canadian would feel very differently. To the Indigenous peoples, Canada’s early settlers were the epitome of Aries energy: martial, reckless, headstrong, hellbent on possessing, controlling, colonizing, exploiting and destroying anything/one standing in the way of their mission. This manifested strongly in the aforementioned eugenics programs, as well as in the residential school system, which we are only now beginning to address as a nation through the Reconciliation movement – lifting the veil of Neptunian self-deception, just a little bit.

This observation has become very relevant in 2021, with the recent news about the discovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former Indian residential schools near Kamloops, BC, Broadview, Saskatchewan and Cranbrook, BC.

These discoveries have further exposed the dark side of Canadian history and the longstanding government policy of cultural genocide, which existed alongside Canada’s efforts to convince everyone that we’re a nation of polite people who like to apologize. This hypocrisy is baked into the core of Canadian national identity and is plainly evident by Canada’s natal Neptune conjunct our Aries Ascendant.

I’ve been reflecting on these recent discoveries and how utterly not surprised I am. I’m not surprised because I’ve been researching the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton for years. I was born at the Camsell and have long been fascinated by its haunted history. This was my gateway into hearing some of voices of Canada’s Indigenous elders and the unwell ancestors that haunt this land.

Back in 2014 I started writing a fictional ghost story set in and around the Camsell. I never finished this story but as part of my writing process, I did a lot of research into the Camsell’s history. I want to summarize this history for you here, to contextualize what I’m about to say.

I believe there are unmarked graves at the grounds of the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton. I’m not alone in this belief – many in the Indigenous community have been saying this for a very long time.

The Charles Camsell Hospital was founded in 1913 and was originally a Jesuit College for boys. The building was purchased by the American Army during World War II and served as a base for army engineers while they built the Alaska Highway. The Government of Canada purchased it back in 1944. The next year, it was converted to a tuberculosis hospital for Inuit and other Indigenous people.

It operated as Charles Camsell Indian Hospital from 1946 to 1968. Indigenous people with tuberculosis were brought here from communities across Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan and northern Canada. Many Indigenous people were involuntarily sterilized here during this time, and there are allegations of physical and sexual abuse, medical negligence and medical experiments committed on the patients during this period.

In 1967, a new building was completed on the hospital site and all equipment, staff and patients  moved to the new building. This is the building that currently stands today. The original building was demolished.

In the 1970s, the Camsell shifted to general treatment of a wider population. The hospital was officially closed in 1996 and it has stood vacant since then, widely regarded as an eyesore and loathed by the neighbouring community.

Local Edmonton architect and developer Gene Dub bought the property in 2004. The project has been plagued by problems from the beginning, including a costly and lengthy six-year asbestos removal scheme, financial issues, two fires caused by construction workers, vandalism, and opposition from the community. Dub’s plan was to convert the building to condominiums, built in the existing structure of the old hospital. In 2018, a news story reported that the condos would be finished by the next spring.

This did not happen. In November 2020, Dub got the site rezoned to allow an additional eight-storey building west of the hospital, and a four-storey seniors’ complex to the south. There’s no word on a proposed completion date. At the time of writing, the Camsell project is not included among Dub’s portfolio on his website.

Historian Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail has connected a lot of the dots about the Camsell’s history since she began researching it in 2015. She has posted a lot of these findings on her excellent site Ghosts of Camsell. As she writes on the site, there have been a lot of rumours about unmarked graves at the Camsell site. Some allege that there is a mass grave of Indigenous children on the south side of the building, in what used to be the staff garden.

A short documentary about the Charles Camsell was made in 2016 by the Edmonton Heritage Council in collaboration with mtset Productions. You can view the documentary here.

I always wondered why Dub decided to build condos in the existing old hospital building, and not just rip it all down and start from scratch. He has converted several old buildings around Edmonton, so admittedly this is his specialty. But the Camsell just isn’t a handsome building, any way you slice it – it’s a classic example of 1960s-era brutalist architecture which abounds in Edmonton. In my wilder moments, I’ve wondered if Dub got wind of the potential for the site to have unmarked graves, and that’s why he decided not to tear the original building down and dig a big pit to put up a new foundation.

As it turns out, this has indeed come onto Dub’s radar in a big way just recently. A lengthy story published yesterday describes the current investigation underway at the Camsell. Dub has employed ground-penetrating radar (GPR – the same technology used to find the unmarked graves at Canadian residential schools) on a corner of the Camsell site. They are currently awaiting the results.

I’m glad some investigation is taking place, but this story raises a lot of questions that go unanswered. It says they used the radar on the southeast corner of the site, but it also says that chief Calvin Bruneau of the Papaschase band (who has been calling for investigation of the Camsell site for years) says “there are no existing buildings at the southeast corner of the site that could be a burial location.”

So why didn’t they use GPR on the rest of the Camsell site? I understand that during the construction that has happened so far, they must have excavated parts of the property already. But we don’t know how deep they went or what they might have found – and then covered up again. Dub says a five-inch bone fragment was brought into his office a month ago, which he turned over to police for forensic investigation and hasn’t heard anything since. He didn’t know if it was human or not, or how old it might be.

I can’t help but feel suspicious about all of this. It would be too easy for the past to be buried yet again at the Camsell. It would be too easy for that Canadian penchant for self-deception and delusion to obfuscate things.

Whatever the results are of the GPR done at the Camsell, I remain convinced that there are unmarked graves here.

This cairn is at a cemetery in St. Albert. It lists 98 names of Indigenous people who died at the Charles Camsell in Edmonton. Originally there were small markers at their graves in this cemetery, but due to neglect and fire the markers were lost and the graves are now unmarked, except for this cairn. You can read the names on the cairn here.

I will do a separate post about the astrology of the Charles Camsell hospital. I need to do more digging in historical archives to pin down dates and times to use for the charts.

In the meantime, this Canada Day I am celebrating being a Canadian. I am reflecting deeply on what that means, the good and especially the bad. I am seeking to peel back the generational layers of Neptunian delusion that have blinded me and my fellow Canadians to the horrors baked into the core of our national identity.

I’m also remembering the good things that Canadians have done and are capable of doing, so that this isn’t just a pointless indulgence in catharsis and white guilt. There is a way we can productively work with our Neptune-Ascendant conjunction and bring Canada into right relation with itself, its history and its people.

That involves listening to the Indigenous community’s calls to find the lost and send them home. I will end this post by quoting at length from journalist Tanya Talaga, who has published an excellent call to action in the Globe & Mail – which also reads like a burn book of the manifestation of Canada’s Neptune-Aries Ascendant:


“Canada may not have more than one million dead who were slaughtered and buried in killing fields, as they do in Cambodia. But make no mistake: Over the past 153 years, Canada has consistently used government policies – residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, the prison system, “universal” health care and repeated ignorance of our people’s necessities of life – to make damn sure we are assimilated.

Erased.

‘We are seeing the result of the genocide Canada committed here. We will not stop until we find all of our children,’ Mr. Cameron said. [Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan.]

In the 1990s, Canadian peacekeepers worked to end the genocide of the Tutsi people in Rwanda. We sent funding, supplies, and reporters to cover and document the crimes.

Yet Canada did nothing here.

Canada dumped our children and peoples in unmarked graves.

We can no longer ignore our past. The heinous one we have been telling you about in First Nations, Métis and Inuit songs, words, art and books and in Royal Commissions, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and countless inquests.

The past that too many Canadians refused to listen to. The past that writers at almost all of Canada’s main media outlets (except, of course, APTN) and politicians denied when they heard Canada had inflicted genocide – a message delivered not once, but twice, at both the TRC and the National Inquiry.

Canadians, now is the time to act. To face this country’s ugly truth. Now is not the time to celebrate Canada’s national birthday with red and white decorations, with draping a flag over your shoulders, with a long-weekend barbecue at a cottage on stolen land.

Find the lost, send them home – and for God’s sake, do not put a price tag on it.

The previously announced $27-million in federal funds – or, here in Ontario, a meagre $10-million – isn’t nearly enough. All the First Nations looking for their loved ones will have to scrap over it. This divide-and-conquer strategy has got to stop. Work with us. Do whatever it takes.

First, let Indigenous Peoples define where to look and what we need.

[…]

Evidence of genocide is also buried in unmarked graves in cemeteries across Canada. Our children, our people were sent to Indian hospitals, tuberculosis sanatoriums and asylums. When they died, many were scattered across the country, away from their homes, in unmarked graves.

[…]

Stand with us, Canada.

Do what it takes.

Show the world you are who you portray yourself to be.”



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