Shredding of residential school testimony is a ‘blow to country’
Many survivors, government argue records should be preserved
Canada “lost a significant amount of truth” about the worst abuses at Indian residential schools with last week’s Supreme Court of Canada decision that records should be destroyed, says the director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
“The truth is powerful but easily suppressed,” Ry Moran said Wednesday in Saskatoon.
The Supreme Court ruled that survivors who told detailed accounts of horrific physical and sexual abuses at Indian residential schools in an assessment process to decide financial compensation were told their stories would be kept private and signed confidentiality agreements.
Many survivors and the federal government argued that the records should be preserved at the National Centre, which houses the documents gathered by the 200915 Truth and Reconciliation Commission and which is tasked with making the complete history available to all so that the cultural genocide committed in the schools will always be part of Canada’s history.
The court agreed that people who now want their stories preserved will have that option. The stories of people who have already died and those who fail to opt in will be destroyed.
“It was a blow to the country” last Friday morning when the court decision was released, Moran said. “As of Thursday night, we actually knew, as a country, the full extent of the horrors inflicted upon children in residential schools. We knew that. We had it. As of Friday morning at 8:45 a.m. we lost it,” Moran said.
“Destruction is actually happening right now. The government of Canada and all the churches that hold this collection of information are actually under a court order to start destroying. So this destruction is not in 15 years from now. It’s happening as we speak, in this present moment.”
Eugene Arcand, who represented Saskatchewan on the national survivors’ committee, said he is angry about the decision.
“Canada’s darkest secret has been opened up. It scares me when they try and do things like destroy records,” he said.
Survivors who went through the independent assessment process were victimized again by adjudicators who questioned them on the veracity of their recollections despite an assurance they would be given the benefit of the doubt, he added.
“It was sickening. I don’t need those people protecting me and my fellow survivors don’t need those people protecting them,” he said.
Of the 38,000 files, 32 per cent involved student-on-student abuse; 68 per cent told of abuse by staff, including the clergy.
It’s time for Canada to create the National Council for Reconciliation that was called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Moran said.
Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, says history is being lost with the destruction of survivors’ testimony about abuse at residential schools that was given during an assessment for compensation. “The truth is powerful but easily suppressed,” he says.
Samantha Fairweather, from left, Mackenzie Dawson and Kaelee Dyck star in Greystone Theatre’s The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, which opens Friday at the U of S.