Longtime Pals Were Switched at Birth
What if you went your whole life thinking you knew who you were and where you came from, only to find out that the life you’re living was meant to belong to someone else? Sounds like a movie, right? This is now the reality for Luke Monias and Norman Barkman who recently learned that their lives are far more intertwined than those of most other lifelong friends could have ever imagined. Their story goes back to the 1975 day their excited parents were able to bring them home from the hospital in Manitoba. Little did they know that it would take 40 years and DNA testing to discover that they had actually been switched at birth.
Monias and Barkman grew up together in Winnipeg, Canada’s remote Manitoba First Nation where they forged a strong bond from a young age. It was common for the pair to be mistaken for brothers or to be told that they looked more like the each others families than their own. It was a running joke in the community, but not one that was ever taken too seriously. Not until recently, that is.
The years of jokes and rumors finally led Monias and Barkman to see if there was any truth to be found. They contacted Provincial Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson last summer for help, which he was able to offer in the for of DNA tests using samples from both men and their surviving parents. The results of the tests were “shocking and unbelievable” for both families to say the least.
It turns out that there was something to all the speculation over the years, with the DNA testing revealing that they were given to the wrong families shortly after their mothers gave birth on the same day all those years ago.
“The mental, physical and spiritual well-being of both men has been deeply affected by the loss of their proper identity,” said Robinson. “The effects on their immediate and extended families is just as serious. It’s also had a huge effect on the community itself. The lives of Luke, Norman and the families have been irreversibly torn apart by this error, and error that cannot be simply overturned at this late time.”
Robinson’s words ring true with the impact of the news being almost palpable as they sit in front of a room brimming with reporters hoping to snag a soundbite.
They don’t have to wait long, though, as the raw emotion comes brimming to the surface when Barkman quietly say, “I just want to know what happened 40 years ago. It’s hard. I just want to know what happened,” his voice broke between words.
“I would like some answers for me and my family,” said Monias fighting back tears. “The good is that now I know the truth.”
The hospital was run by the federal government in 1975, according to Canada’s health minister, Dr. Hane Philpott. She is “very concerned to learn of this issue” unearthed by the DNA testing conducted and is having the issue reviewed. She said in an email, “I’ve heard of a lot of stories in my lifetime, but I’ve never heard of anything like this occurring.”
News of something like this can be earth shattering on its own and even more devastating if its coupled with a sense of being ostracized from their own community. Robinson has already thought of this and has even considered having a celebratory feast in the honor of Monias and Barkman in a show of support. “I really commend the bravery of these gentlemen for stepping forth and wanting to know the truth, no only for their own sanity but for the good of their families,” he says.
Feast or no feast, these two men and their families have a lot to process and a lot of healing to do while they come to terms with being switched at birth.
There’s one thing that will remain the same regardless of the new information revealed through the DNA test, according to Monias. “He’s still my brother. No matter what.”