Court orders Federal Government to disclose residential school documents
Mr. Justice Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has held that the Government “misconstrued” its disclosure obligations and ordered it to disclose any documents in its possession relating to abuse at St. Anne’s Indian Residential School.
Under the Independent Assessment Process for Abuse Victims of Indian Residential Schools (the “IAP”), the Government is required to disclose any information in its possession relating to abuse of First Nations students at residential schools, as well as information relating to the alleged perpetrators of abuse at a school. When we discovered that hundreds of transcripts and other documents existed relating to abuse at St. Anne’s Indian Residential School, we sought disclosure from the Government.
At first, the Government did not admit to having the transcripts and documents we requested. Even after it admitted that it was in possession of the documents, the Government claimed that it was under no obligation to disclose them. Among other reasons, in its view, it was not obliged to search for or disclose any information about alleged perpetrators of abuse if the allegations of abuse were made after the alleged perpetrator no longer worked at the school.
Since St. Anne’s closed in 1976, the Government’s position effectively was that it was not obliged to provide any information about any of the former residential school employees.
Justice Perell rejected the Government’s nonsensical interpretation of the IAP provision in question. While he noted that the provision could have been better drafted, its meaning was clear. The date an allegation of abuse was made is irrelevant to the Government’s disclosure obligation. Rather, the Government is obliged to disclose any information it has about abuse that is alleged to have occurred while an alleged perpetrator was an employee or student at the residential school. He ordered the Government to comply with its obligations.