Maybe it’s because I’m a genealogist and understand the value of knowing our own histories – good and bad, or maybe it’s because of my innate sense of right and wrong and knowing that we all lose in the end if the mistakes of our past are forgotten.
Either way, I strongly believe if the records documenting residential school abuses are to be destroyed, we would be doing a great disservice to ourselves and future generations.
I write this after reading the following article and as I sit to watch a documentary, “Anne Frank’s Holocaust” and marvel at the importance one simple, informal document has gained as an honest description of the horrors of the holocaust – and that document is Anne Frank’s Diary.
At the very least, all of the documents should be digitized and classified until the legal privacy period has passed and they can become available to the general public.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
Some of the records detailing painful abuses suffered by residential school students will be destroyed as soon as two years from now following a Supreme Court ruling that settles the documentation’s fate.
The 7-0 high court ruling released Friday brings clarity to an issue that pitted the privacy of victims against the importance of documenting a dark chapter in Canada’s relations with Indigenous Peoples.
For over a century, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were required to attend residential schools, primarily run by religious institutions and funded by the federal government. Students were not allowed to use their languages or cultural practices.
Former pupils provided accounts of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as part of an independent assessment process to determine compensation — a program that flowed from a major 2006 settlement agreement aimed at ensuring a lasting resolution of the residential schools legacy.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that said the sensitive material collected for the independent assessments should be destroyed after 15 years, though individuals could consent to archival preservation of their stories.
In its reasons for the decision, the Supreme Court said the negotiators of the settlement agreement intended the assessment process to be a confidential and private one, and that claimants and alleged perpetrators relied on these confidentiality assurances.
Under the process, claimants disclosed intimate personal information, including a first-person narrative outlining his or her request for compensation. Applications were then forwarded to the federal government and the church organization that operated the residential school.
If the claim was not settled at this stage, it proceeded to a hearing before an adjudicator, supervised by the chief adjudicator of the Indian Residential Schools Secretariat. The settlement agreement operations branch of the federal Indigenous Affairs Department represented the government as a defendant to the claims.
Participants were advised that the hearings would be held in private, and that each person who attended must sign a confidentiality agreement.