Cash set­tle­ment a start for sur­vivors: ex-com­mis­sioner

Hughes says much more needs to be done for for­mer res­i­den­tial school stu­dents

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - BETTY ANN ADAM badam@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/SPBAA­dam

The only way to get sur­vivors of the worst abuses at res­i­den­tial schools to agree to talk about “the evil that went on in those schools” was to prom­ise them con­fi­den­tial­ity, says Ted Hughes, the first chief com­mis­sioner of the process to pay them resti­tu­tion.

Hughes, 90, who is in Saska­toon this week, said he agrees with the re­cent Supreme Court of Canada de­ci­sion that the records must be de­stroyed un­less liv­ing sur­vivors say they want their sto­ries pre­served.

“We wouldn’t have got that story as fully as we did if we had not given as­sur­ances (of con­fi­den­tial­ity). I have no prob­lem with them be­ing en­cour­aged to change their minds, but that’s an in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sion,” he said.

The for­mer Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench jus­tice moved to Vic­to­ria, B.C. in 1980. He was later ap­pointed that prov­ince’s first con­flict of in­ter­est com­mis­sioner, and his work led to the res­ig­na­tion of Premier Bill Van­der Zalm. He went on to lead many com­mis­sions across western and north­ern Canada.

He served as con­flict of in­ter­est com­mis­sioner for Yukon and the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, led a Saskatchewan in­quiry into the shoot­ing of Cree trap­per Leo Lachance by white su­prem­a­cist Car­ney Ner­land in Prince Al­bert, and con­ducted re­views of pris­ons and the RCMP. He chaired a B.C. jus­tice re­form com­mit­tee and was chief fed­eral ne­go­tia­tor in talks with In­dige­nous groups on Van­cou­ver Is­land.

In 2005, he re­ported on the fail­ings of the child wel­fare sys­tem in B.C., which led to the cre­ation of the prov­ince’s first in­de­pen­dent watch­dog for child ser­vices.

His as­sign­ment as chief ad­ju­di­ca­tor of the res­i­den­tial school set­tle­ment pro­gram was “the most mean­ing­ful re­spon­si­bil­ity that I’ve had in my en­tire work­ing life,” he said.

“It was a start to do some­thing for the peo­ple who so suf­fered at the res­i­den­tial schools. In no way was the cash set­tle­ment all that needs to be done, but it was a be­gin­ning.”

In the five years he ran the al­ter­na­tive res­o­lu­tion process, which pre­ceded the cur­rent in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment pro­gram, Hughes and his lieu­tenant, Irene Fraser, ap­proved 4,900 cases.

“Any­one who says there wasn’t evil went on at those schools, I’ll take them on any time,” he said.

He is proud all three of the chief ad­ju­di­ca­tors of the process are alumni of the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan Col­lege of Law — him­self, for­mer dean Dan Ish and cur­rent chief Daniel Shapiro.

Hughes was 83 in 2011 when he led a Man­i­toba in­quiry into the death of five-year-old Phoenix Sin­clair, who was mur­dered by her dys­func­tional par­ents af­ter re­peated fail­ures of the child pro­tec­tion sys­tem.

He said he is “very dis­ap­pointed” the fed­eral govern­ment has yet to com­ply with or­ders from the Cana­dian Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal to stop dis­crim­i­nat­ing against In­dige­nous chil­dren by un­der­fund­ing child wel­fare on re­serves.

“I think there’s an ap­pre­ci­a­tion out there with the gen­eral pub­lic to­day that wasn’t al­ways there; the di­vi­sion that has been fos­tered all th­ese years has to be bridged. The pub­lic is much more amenable to see fed­eral funds in­vested in a way that will im­prove the lot in life of the In­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion,” he said.

Hughes and his wife He­len drove to Saska­toon from their home in Vic­to­ria to in­tro­duce his bi­og­ra­phy, The Mighty Hughes, by jour­nal­ist Craig Innes. They will at­tend a book sign­ing from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to­day at McNally Robin­son Book­sellers.

The trip is a home­com­ing for the cou­ple. Ted was born and raised in Saska­toon and be­gan his long, dis­tin­guished ca­reer here. He­len served as pres­i­dent of the Saska­toon YWCA be­fore she was elected Ward 9 city coun­cil­lor in 1976 and 1979. In that role, she worked to make the city more wel­com­ing to the grow­ing num­bers of In­dige­nous peo­ple who were ar­riv­ing from First Na­tions and smaller ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

She ex­am­ined the fed­eral em­ploy­ment cen­tre, where she en­cour­aged work­ers to see their roles as bridges between po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers and In­dige­nous work­ers, sug­gest­ing em­ploy­ers con­sider the op­pres­sive life ex­pe­ri­ences of In­dige­nous ap­pli­cants. She was awarded the Or­der of Canada in 1982 for that work.

In Vic­to­ria, He­len con­tin­ued her civic lead­er­ship, where she served for 18 years on city coun­cil. She re­mains on a civic com­mit­tee ex­am­in­ing the pro­vin­cial courts, with an eye to im­port­ing an In­dige­nous youth sen­tenc­ing court from Dun­can to Vic­to­ria.

MOR­GAN MODJESKI

Ted Hughes, the for­mer Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench jus­tice, B.C. con­flict of in­ter­est com­mis­sioner and head of nu­mer­ous pub­lic com­mis­sions, is in Saska­toon with his wife He­len Hughes, a for­mer Saska­toon City coun­cil­lor, to pro­mote his new bi­og­ra­phy, The Mighty Hughes, writ­ten by jour­nal­ist Craig Innes.

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