Residential school material safe for 15 years

Court orders material on residential school abuse destroyed after 15 years

  • Aug. 7, 2014 7:00 a.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

From fire to awards: wild week for Similkameen winery

Roller coaster of a week for the owners at Forbidden Fruit Winery in Cawston

Summerland team wins Women’s A title at Greenwood Cup

Carol Rosenthall and Dawn Richards were winners at the 48th annual tournament

Unexpected snow on Okanagan Connector, Pennask Summit

As of 6:50 a.m. DriveBC cameras displayed surprise snowfall on highway

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: chance of rain

Environment Canada is calling for a risk of thunderstorms tonight

MPs hear retired Penticton nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

VIDEO: Weekday weather update for the Okanagan Valley

Snow is expected on the Okanagan connector and thunderstorms across the Valley

B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

Pair of B.C. cities crack Ashley Madison’s “Infidelity Hotlist”

Data from the website reveals Abbotsford and Kelowna hottest spots for cheaters

Funds needed for special diving team to find missing Okanagan kayaker

Zygmunt Janiewicz was last seen on Okanagan Lake May 17

In 2019, 21 fires in Vernon to Penticton zone have been human caused, some linked to cigarette butts

Lake Country councillors want stricter regulations, more signage on public smoking

Okanagan school digs up $2,500 recycling prize

Kalamalka Secondary students recognized for establishing a new culture of recycling

Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Billboards featuring Indigenous artwork to be placed in Surrey, Kamloops and near Prince George

Spikeball tournament sets up for Okanagan summer

The tournament for the four-player beach game comes July 13 in Kelowna

Driver loses tire while behind the wheel after lug-nut thief strikes in Burnaby

Burnaby RCMP are investigating after two reports of lug-nut tampering in the city this month

Most Read