Tri­bunal tells res­i­den­tial-school claimants that records will be de­stroyed if no ac­tion is taken

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - GLO­RIA GAL­LOWAY PAR­LIA­MEN­TARY RE­PORTER OT­TAWA

The in­de­pen­dent tri­bunal that over­sees the process for de­ter­min­ing how much com­pen­sa­tion is paid to peo­ple abused at Canada’s In­dian Res­i­den­tial Schools is warn­ing for­mer stu­dents that doc­u­ments re­lated to their claims will be de­stroyed un­less they take steps to have them pre­served.

With the first of the records con­tain­ing in­ti­mate de­tails of the phys­i­cal, sex­ual and emo­tional trauma suf­fered by more than 38,000 for­mer stu­dents headed for the shred­der, the In­dian Res­i­den­tial Schools Ad­ju­di­ca­tion Sec­re­tariat is launch­ing a web­site to in­form claimants about their range of op­tions.

If those who ap­plied for awards un­der the In­dian Res­i­den­tial Schools Set­tle­ment Agree­ment take no ac­tion, the records re­lated to their case must be de­stroyed 15 years after they were cre­ated, ac­cord­ing to a 2017 rul­ing by the Supreme Court of Canada. Since the first dis­pute res­o­lu­tions oc­curred in 2004 – two years be­fore the ac­tual agree­ment was signed – some of those doc­u­mentswill­bee­l­im­i­nat­edthisyear.

The sec­re­tariat web­site, which is be­ing made pub­lic on Mon­day, tells claimants how they may ob­tain a copy of the records to keep or to share with oth­ers, and how to sub­mit the records to be archived at the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba, if that is what they wish. A na­tional out­reach pro­gram that in­cludes ad­ver­tis­ing, so­cial me­dia and train­ing of health sup­port work­ers to alert for­mer stu­dents about their op­tions will also be funded by the sec­re­tariat.“Itis­de­signed­tore­ach Indige­nous peo­ple in all re­gions of Canada so that claimants can make an in­formed choice about whatthey­want­todowith­their­records,” Dan Shapiro, the chief ad­ju­di­ca­tor of the in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment process, which is man­aged by the res­i­den­tial schools ad­ju­di­ca­tion sec­re­tariat, said in a state­ment.

The web­site and the out­reach pro­gram were de­vel­oped in co-op­er­a­tion with the Assem­bly of First Na­tions, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, lawyers rep­re­sent­ing for­mer stu­dents and the Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. It was also ap­proved by the On­tario Su­pe­rior Court of Jus­tice.

The sec­re­tariat won a pro­tracted court bat­tle in 2017 with the gov­ern­ment of Canada, which had sought to pre­serve the doc­u­ments for his­tor­i­cal and re­search­pur­poses. The­gov­ern­ment said the iden­ti­ties of the claimants could have been re­moved from the records to pro­tect their pri­vacy. It ar­gued that the doc­u­men­tary record had to be pre­served so no one would for­get what hap­pened at the schools, which op­er­ated for more than a cen­tury in Canada and have been de­scribed as an ex­er­cise in “cul­tural geno­cide” by a com­mis­sion that in­ves­ti­gated their legacy.

But Mr. Shapiro coun­tered that some of the claimants told him they would never have taken part in the In­de­pen­dent As­sess­ment Process with­out the prom­ise of con­fi­den­tial­ity, and they wanted the de­tails of what hap­pened to them at the schools kept se­cret, even from their fam­i­lies and even after their deaths.

The Assem­bly of First Na­tions agreed with Mr. Shapiro, say­ing that the pub­lic archiv­ing of the doc­u­ments, with­out the ex­plicit con­sent of the claimants, would mark an­other breach of trust for those who were abused as chil­dren at the schools. In the end, the Supreme Court up­held a lower court rul­ing and said the doc­u­ments had to be de­stroyed after 15 years, un­less the claimants specif­i­cally con­sented to hav­ing them pre­served.

Some for­mer stu­dents may not know ex­actly what doc­u­ments about their claims ex­ist. The sec­re­tariat sug­gests that, in those cases, they ob­tain a copy of the records be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion about whether to have them archived at the Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

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