Pre­serve res­i­den­tial school tes­ti­mony

StarMetro Halifax - - VIEWS - Jas­mine Ka­batay For Metro Views Jas­mine Ka­batay is an Ojib­way jour­nal­ist, orig­i­nally from Seine River First Na­tion.

When it comes to pre­serv­ing his­tory, it can be hard to save what you’d rather for­get.

The Supreme Court of Canada re­cently ruled that irst-hand ac­counts of abuse at res­i­den­tial schools can be de­stroyed. The unan­i­mous de­ci­sion states the in­for­ma­tion was col­lected in a “con iden­tial and pri­vate process,” and that pri­vacy was vi­tal to the un­der­tak­ing.

I’m dis­ap­pointed with the de­ci­sion. And I’m not alone.

Ahead of the rul­ing, Jus­tice Mur­ray Sin­clair, who headed the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion, said the coun­try’s his­tor­i­cal mem­ory was at stake, ac­cord­ing to the Globe and Mail. Min­is­ter of Crown­indige­nous Re­la­tions and North­ern A airs Carolyn Bennett ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion that the govern­ment did not win con­trol of the ma­te­rial.

The doc­u­ments will be kept for 15 years, dur­ing which time sur­vivors can choose to have their records pre­served. If not, they will be de­stroyed.

Though it takes tremen­dous courage to do so, I’d like to see them pre­served.

I un­der­stand there are sur­vivors who don’t want their story out there. And while I sup­port their de­ci­sion, those sto­ries com­prise a long and dark chap­ter of our his­tory.

The doc­u­ments — tran­scripts, au­dio­tapes, ap­pli­ca­tion forms — were col­lected from 38,000 sur­vivors to eval­u­ate set­tle­ments fol­low­ing nu­mer­ous law­suits, with an agree­ment be­tween the govern­ment and the sur­vivors they would be kept pri­vate.

The irst-hand sto­ries are un­com­fort­able, but they’re not told to com­fort; they were told to seek jus­tice.

If they are all de­stroyed it erases some­thing In­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous Peo­ples can learn from.

The e ects from res­i­den­tial schools are still felt in many com­mu­ni­ties, but it is di icult to truly see them. Many of the build­ings still stand­ing have di er­ent func­tions. Some have been de­stroyed. Oth­ers want them to be a stark re­minder. Last year, the Mo­hawk In­sti­tute Res­i­den­tial School in Brant­ford, Ont. be­came an ed­u­ca­tional cen­tre to teach the sad his­tory.

While we have doc­u­men­taries, books, and ilms about res­i­den­tial schools, there can never be too many.

Pre­serv­ing these records would add to the body of knowl­edge.

I hope sur­vivors opt to pre­serve them Their strength and re­siliency won’t go un­no­ticed — for us, and for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

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