Residential school survivors want government lawyers turfed
Residential school survivors no longer trust the Government’s lawyers to follow the rules of the Independent Assessment Process.
Survivors of St. Anne’s Indian Residential School have asked the Department of Justice to remove its lawyers from the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) under the residential school settlement agreement.
We now know that, in 2003, the Government obtained possession of at least some of the many documents gathered in an OPP investigation into abuse claims at St. Anne’s, including transcripts of criminal proceedings in which former St. Anne’s staff were convicted of abuse. Indeed, the Government went to court to gain access to the OPP file on St. Anne’s. Yet in 2007, when it prepared the narrative to be used by adjudicators determining the claims of former St. Anne’s students, the Government claimed there was no record of any abuse at the school.
When the OPP investigation inadvertently came to light in July 2012, we advised Government lawyers that the OPP had a huge record documenting abuse claims – not realizing that the Government already knew about the OPP file and had copied many of the documents 10 years earlier. The Government did not admit to having the documents until November 2012, and then refused to disclose the documents.
More significantly, the Government did not take any steps to correct the St. Anne’s narrative for a year (until July 2013) and then only after NDP MP Charlie Angus had contacted the Minister of Justice and was about to go public with the story.
As the CBC reports, government lawyers questioned the credibility of former St. Anne’s students during the IAP process, at least in part based on the benign narrative that stated there was no known report of any abuse at the school:
Former students of St. Anne’s have recounted horrific experiences of sexual and physical abuse, electrocution in a homemade electric chair and being forced to eat their own vomit. And yet, in their hearings, the survivors say, without the support of a full narrative, their truthfulness was questioned by federal government lawyers.
“Many times we are made to feel that we are committing the crime, rather than participating in a justice system correcting past abuse,” wrote Metatawabin in the letter to Mackay.
The survivors say that after the Department of Justice fought them in court to avoid releasing documents that would help them corroborate their claims (as the IAP process requires), they no longer trust the independent assessment process.