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Legal battles continue for St. Anne’s residential school survivors

Nishnawbe Aski Nation is rallying outside the Government of Canada Tuesday in support of St. Anne's Survivors.
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Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum
Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. (Photo supplied)

Nishnawbe Aski Nation release

TORONTO, Ont. -- Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum is appalled by the Government of Canada’s legal tactics that are revictimizing survivors of the notorious St. Anne’s Indian Residential School and denying them justice.

“The federal government’s position against St. Anne’s Survivors is a shameful injustice that is at odds with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and this government’s commitment to reconciliation,” said Achneepineskum, who is attending Wednesday’s hearing in the Ontario Superior Court.

“It is unconscionable that unscrupulous legal tactics are forcing these victims to be retraumatized. If the government’s actions matched their words, they would support survivors of the residential school experience instead of bullying them into silence.”

St. Anne’s Residential School Survivors Angela Shisheesh and an unnamed claimant (Claimant C-14114) are in court Wednesday challenging the Government of Canada for violating their legal rights under the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. 

Both Shisheesh and Claimant C-14114 have come forward as witnesses on behalf of other survivors of St. Anne’s, but the testimonies previously provided by Shisheesh and 18,000 other survivors have yet to be seen as evidence by the government.

The government has taken the position that all witnesses, including Shisheesh, must re-testify.

It is also the argument of the government that Shisheesh does not have standing to come forth in Court.

Shisheesh will ask the Court to mandate the government to accept her testimony as true moving forward.

She will also ask the Court to determine if she can file transcript of examinations with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, as federal lawyers claim she must have permission from the Government of Canada and the Catholic Church in order to submit her statements. 

“If the Court says that we don’t have standing to speak for ourselves, it takes away our individual rights,” said St. Anne’s survivor Edmund Metatawabin.

“It highlights the unfortunate piece of policy that states because we have a band and reserve number, that we are prisoners of Canada.” 

Metatawabin and St. Anne’s survivors have proved (January 14, 2014) that the government filed false reports about child abuse at St. Anne’s.

More than 12,000 documents had been in possession of the federal Department of Justice from St. Anne’s survivors about their sexual and serve abuse, but this information was suppressed by the federal government for the Independent Assessment process.

The courts have heard the horrible abuse of children at St. Anne’s, including a homemade electric chair for punishment and children being forced to eat their own vomit.

The Ontario Provincial Police conducted interviews with more than 700 survivors in the 1990s, which led to five former employees from St. Anne’s being convicted. 

St. Anne’s survivors pursued their legal rights under the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, but police records were withheld by the federal government. 

Before the IRSSA was reached in 2006, Department of Justice lawyers and lawyers for the Catholic Church had the evidence of 1,000 former students of St. Anne’s. After the IRSSA, survivors were to have this information disclosed to their IAP adjudicator.

Survivors rely on these historical files to prove that they attended the school and support their claims of abuse, but despite being ordered to release documents to survivors, the Department of Justice continues to withhold them.