Tbnewswatch Local News
Monday July 6 2015
6:08 PM EDT
2014-01-15 at 10:48

Issuing praise

FILE -- Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the government of Canada owed it to survivors of the St. Anne Residential School at Fort Albany First Nation to release documents detailing the criminal activities of the school’s former employees. The documents were ordered released by the Superior Court of Justice.
FILE -- Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the government of Canada owed it to survivors of the St. Anne Residential School at Fort Albany First Nation to release documents detailing the criminal activities of the school’s former employees. The documents were ordered released by the Superior Court of Justice.
By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com

First Nations leaders are applauding a Superior Court of Justice decision ordering the federal government to release documents to survivors of abuse at the St. Anne Residential School at Fort Albany First Nation.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, in a release issued on Wednesday, said the decision stemming from a 1990s criminal investigation was a long time coming.

“We are pleased that the court agrees that the government of Canada has a legal obligation under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to release these documents and that the truth about this shocking abuse will finally be fully revealed,” said Fiddler, who attended the December hearings.

“It is critical that survivors have access to these documents in order to be fully compensated and that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be permitted to fulfill its mandate to protect this significant part of history for generations to come.”

However, Julian Falconer, counsel for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said it never should have come to the courts. 

"One of the important aspects of this decision is that it recognizes that you can't have reconciliation without truth telling. The atrocities at St. Anne's are some of the most horrendous, everything from electrocuting children as young as six years of age, forcing children to eat their own vomit and different forms of sexual abuses," Falconer said. 

"These are all matters that horribly scarred communities. There are survivors and they are entitled to appropriate compensation for unspeakable acts. This is the first point, chronicling that to support their claims." 

Falconer said history also has a strange way of repeating itself when it's not documented. The task of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is to protect that history and ensure it doesn't happen again. 

He's not sure why the government continues to balk at sharing the information, especially in light of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology on behalf of the nation to residential school survivors, their families and their communities. 

"If that apology is to have any credibility, then this kind of gamesmanship has to stop. And what has to happen is that a full and meaningful interpretation to Canada's obligations be given by Canada so that we don't have to routinely and repeatedly drag them to court to get them to fulfil their obligations," Falconer said. 

In the decision, Justice Perell stated the Canadian government had too narrowly interpreted its disclosure obligations, leading non-compliance under the agreement.

The hearings took place on Dec. 17 to 18, 2013.

Falconer hopes it doesn't have to happen a third time. 

"I can tell you this is the second time in 12 months the TRC has had to ask a court to intervene. In my view, specifically in this case, it was a no-brainer. At the end of the day all of this comes from what the court describes as an inadequate understanding on the part of Canada of its production obligation and an inadequate understanding of its relevancy."

The incidents were documented in a five-year OPP investigation that led to criminal convictions of six school employees.

According to Fiddler, survivors have been fighting for the release of the documents since learning of their existence in 2003.

“The survivors of St. Anne’s acted in good faith when they agreed to take part in the independent assessment process, but the government’s failure to provide this evidence to the claimants and independent adjudicators raised significant questions as to whether they would ever receive what they deserve,” Fiddler said.

“The ruling ensures that the facts behind this terrible chapter in history are preserved and it is shameful that it has take two court orders to compel the government to honour its obligations under this process.



Click here to submit a letter to the editor.

Click here to report a typo or error



We've improved our comment system.
farmgal says:
There is no excuse for the kind of treatment these people received in the schools but it should be the churches that pay. However giving them money will not change the past. I was also abused mentally, physically and sexually as a child but was determined to rise above it and stop the cycle with me. We have to take control of our lives. We make a choice every day how we want to face the day, with hate and bitterness or with self control and goals.
1/16/2014 7:09:35 PM
Tbay99 says:
I noticed more talk of "fulfilling rights" well...

First Nations will bankrupt Canada through their interrelation of treaty rights. The treaty was made hundreds of years ago and is not sustainable with modern intrepretation. Something has to give..
1/16/2014 10:35:51 AM
trevor99 says:
there is one critical part of this story that is not being told and no one seems to know and no one is demanding it.

I would publicly over and over again demand to know why the Federal Government is fighting to keep these documents secret. Hopefully the media will not let up. It is that kind of sustained pressure to build public support that will only get that answer.

For the life of me, I cannot imagine a scenario where any level of government would try to prevent the complete uncovering of abuse.

As a Canadian I am disgusted by the Governments actions.

As a human being, I am embarrassed to be a Canadian.

This is outrageous.
1/15/2014 8:22:53 PM
wasaya says:
I am in total agreement with you trevor...once these docs are released, I can almost guarantee, you will be horrified to read what actually happened. Shame on Canada.

And to relaxing in Murillo... you are BANG on...
1/16/2014 7:08:54 AM
Dudebro says:
As it's important that survivors have access to these documents for compensation, let's please not understand "compensation" to simply be in the form of money. That's not fair to the rest of us who may have had hard times growing up as well.
This time around, instead of further bankrupting this poor country, maybe it's time that other forms of compensation more fitting for the wrong that was done is offered.
Perhaps very generous offers of different forms of personal counseling and healing. More culturally appropriate forms of helping to right the wrongs.
Handing out large payments is not the solution to healing spirit. The very leaders of our First Nations and governing bodies should be the first ones to realize this.
If money is exchanged again, this will be proof that those affected are only satisfied with money and this will further push relations between First Nations people and non First Nations people in the wrong direction.
1/15/2014 8:17:05 PM
TIC says:
I am confused, is this about getting the truth out and making sure things like this never happen again and holding the ones responsible for it happening accountable, or is it about compensation(money), because that seems to be mentioned quite a bit here. Personally, as a Canadian I am tired of being lumped into the group responsible for this just because I am a Canadian. These were people who committed these horrible acts, not an entire population of a country and I say round up every single one of them and throw them in jail. Even more so if these documents indicate who was doing what.
1/15/2014 7:09:49 PM
tsb says:
Maybe you should just not take personal offense when you did nothing wrong?

Just because they're fighting with our government doesn't mean that you are personally responsible for the tragedy. You are only responsible if you support the government in not releasing the requested information, and you clearly don't, so why would you say you feel responsible?
1/16/2014 6:44:35 AM
Tbaylifer 1 says:
As a non aborginal, I am tried of the federal government not dealing with first nation issues such as this which only cost the taxpayer not just money but the ability to move forward, together.
1/15/2014 4:52:13 PM
RelaxinginMurillo says:
Ditto, except replace "federal government" with "the Anglican, Catholic, United and Presbyterian churches, which ran residential schools "
1/15/2014 8:51:11 PM
pylon says:
yet we still fund a separate school board..
1/16/2014 8:40:01 PM
Comments for this story are semi-moderated. Read our comment guideline.

Add a new comment.
You must log in to add comments.
Create a new account
Log In