Residential school material safe for 15 years

Court orders material on residential school abuse destroyed after 15 years

  • Aug. 7, 2014 12:00 p.m.

St. Michael's Residential School building

By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Sensitive testimony from survivors of Canada’s notorious residential school system should be kept for 15 years then destroyed, an Ontario court has ruled.

In a decision released Thursday, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell said the time should be used to see whether those involved might agree to have their records transferred to a new national archive.

“During the 15-year retention period, there shall be a court-approved program to advise the survivors of their choice to transfer some of the documents instead of having (them) destroyed,” Perell wrote.

The justice said that destroying the documents is necessary to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the information, and to safeguard the assessment process itself.

If survivors want their records kept, the material will have to be redacted to protect perpetrators or other third parties.

The documents in question relate to compensation claims made by as many as 30,000 survivors of the Indian residential schools under an agreement that settled a class-action suit against the federal government.

Many of the records contain heart-rending and emotional accounts of sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

The head of the compensation assessment process, backed by a privacy expert, argued the material was intended to be confidential and should be destroyed once the claims are processed.

Others, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or TRC, called for the documents to be preserved to ensure as complete a historical record as possible.

In an interview, Julian Falconer, lawyer for the commission, expressed cautious optimism but said much will depend on the process to educate claimants about their choices.

“The TRC has maintained from the outset that it was of crucial importance that claimants have a choice, that they have an opportunity to exercise informed consent about the fate of their records,” Falconer said.

“The (commission) remains committed to protecting history.”

Perell said the court would work out details of the notice to claimants at another hearing.

The head of the adjudication process, Dan Shapiro, said in a statement he was pleased with the decision.

“The court has issued a clear statement confirming the privacy of claimants and others identified in compensation claim records,” Shapiro said.

“This will be a huge relief to the thousands of claimants who have appeared at our hearings fully expecting that their accounts of the abuse they suffered at Indian residential schools would not be made public without their consent.”

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend residential schools over much of the last century as part of government efforts to “take the Indian out of the child.” Many suffered horrific abuse at the church-run schools.

Materials collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which also heard from thousands of survivors, are to be housed at the new National Research Centre at the University of Manitoba.

Ry Moran, head of the archive, fretted that the voices of thousands of survivors would forever be silenced if their testimony was destroyed.

But Perell found that if personal information from the assessment process was released — even by mistake — it would be a “grievous betrayal of trust” that would “foster enmity and new harms.”

Destroying them, he said, is what the parties agreed to and would more likely foster reconciliation.

Just Posted

$21.5 million medical pot plant for Princeton

A $21.5 million medical marijuana facility - expected to provide 95 jobs… Continue reading

Seasonal cabins threatened by Cool Creek blaze

Fire burning out of control southeast of Princeton

BC Wildfire has close eyes on Snowy Mountain wildfire

BC Wildfire has a variety of plans depending how the wildfire near Keremeos changes in coming days

Fire burning near Olalla still out of control

BC Wildfire crews are responding to a 144 hectare blaze near Keremeos

Sparks set to fly in new Okanagan College welding facility

Welding students based in Penticton will now have access to the new, $2.2 million facility

More smoggy air for the Okanagan

Breathing conditions are improving, though still not ideal

Evacuation alert for Dark Lake Valley area

There are 21 properties are affected

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

Thieves target tires and rims in Shuswap

Salmon Arm RCMP report two recent incidents, a van used in one theft was stolen in Surrey

VIDEO: Teen soccer phenomenon Alphonso Davies to visit B.C. kids camp

The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecap player is one of the youngest players in MLS history

25-year-old Edmonton man pronounced dead on Shuswap Lake houseboat

Sicamous RCMP deem death to be non suspicious, BC Coroners Service investigating

Nearly 7 million late-run sockeye due to return to Shuswap

Officials hope promising Scotch Creek early-return bodes well for Adams River run

Most Read