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The Canadian government cannot be allowed to renege on a legal deal with its aboriginal people simply because sticking to the terms would cost too much, an Ontario court heard Thursday.
At issue, a lawyer for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said, is the government's refusal to organize and turn over millions of records related to what he called "the highest level of human tragedy" — the Indian residential school system.
Those records, lawyer Julian Falconer told Justice Stephen Goudge, go to the commission's core mandate of creating a comprehensive and lasting account of the shameful century of abuse.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was created as part of the agreement signed in 2006 between survivors, the government, the churches that ran the schools and others, is asking an Ontario Superior Court justice to interpret Ottawa’s obligations under that deal. The aim is to force the government to release millions of the documents that are buried in federal archives.
Aboriginal groups and the commission created to reveal the truth about what happened behind the walls of the schools that operated for 130 years say the full story cannot be told without ready access to millions of documents that are now buried in government archives.
The public inquiry into Indian residential schools is in court in Toronto today hoping to force the federal government to provide the records it wants.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission says the government has been dragging its feet, making it impossible for it to do its job.
The government says it has done its best to co-operate, providing one-million documents already.
However, there appear to be as many as five million others.
The commission was set up in 2007 as part of an historic settlement with victims of the Indian residential school system.
An Ontario judge is hearing the case over two days.
”Without the release of the historical records at Federal Archives there is no way the TRC can carry out their mandate,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “The Government of Canada’s refusal to produce millions of records in Federal Archives is making it impossible for the Commission to produce a final report that is accurate, clear and fair to the experience of residential school survivors. We want to know: What exactly is the federal government hiding from the survivors?”
Given the horrific history that led up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008 offering an overdue apology to Canada's First Nations citizens for the indignities they'd suffered for 150 years at residential schools, the need for a court proceeding that begins today is nearly unfathomable.
Yet, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was established as part of the $1.9 billion settlement that saw Ottawa, churches and others compensate residential school survivors, has been forced in the face of seeming intransigence by the federal government to seek judicial help to deliver on its mandate to create a public record the schools' sorry legacy.
It was meant to be a permanent and public record of a sad chapter in Canadian history.
But it has evolved into a court battle between the government and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over who is responsible for collecting millions of documents about the country’s aboriginal residential schools.
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Back in 2008 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper made peace on our behalf with victims of Indian residential schools, it was a historic moment.
Aboriginal leaders believed Harper’s promises. Some even cried.
It followed on the Indian residential schools settlement of 2006 and 2007 when the federal government promised it would set up a national research centre on residential schools as a documentary repository for the horrors that took place in them.
NOTE: The entire podcast is available on the CBC website. Follow the link, and find it located on the right-hand side of the page. The podcast is 23:49 in length.
Four years ago, all the talk was of reconciliation, of respect and of a new start for Canada and its aboriginal people. A Prime ministerial apology marked the birth of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. It's mission? To try to come to terms with the painful legacy of the more than 150 thousand aboriginal children who were forced into residential schools between the 1880's and the 1980's. Now, the Commission is taking the federal government to court, saying truth itself is at stake.
The chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which is uncovering stories of abuse of First Nations people in residential schools like Shubenacadie, told the community they have shown him a great act of reconciliation.
“Those of you who are being honoured here today as survivors, I hope that you will be able to gain a measure of respect and self-respect for the way that this community now honours you,” Sinclair said.
“Ma’tlipiatiwkw app,” Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy said Saturday, quoting the inscription on a monument unveiled at the We’koqma’q First Nation in Cape Breton.
“It won’t happen again.”
The pledge refers to the suffering by Mi’kmaq children experienced at the Maritime provinces’ only Indian residential school in Shubenacadie.
On Saturday, he and 17 other survivors of Canada’s residential schools will lead a community procession in Waycobah to unveil a special monument and exhibit dedicated to survivors. The event is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.
“My emotions are running wild thinking about it. I will be reminded of it every time I pass by the monument,” Condo said in an interview Thursday.
But Condo has resigned himself to knowing that, monument or not, the memory of those years will never fade as he and others move forward, having survived one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history.
"The indigenous capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation is almost beyond belief."
Few Canadians can speak with a genuine understanding of that capacity. Dr. Marie Wilson, who sits on Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is one of them.
Commissioner Marie Wilson communicated this powerful message while in Montreal last week to deliver the annual Jeanne Sauvé Address. There she spoke to the incredible leadership being shown by survivors of Canada's Indian Residential Schools as thousands have courageously come forward to tell the country their stories
The courts can decide if documents related to Canada's residential schools can be released for a commission probing the dark legacy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled Wednesday.
The Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) is seeking a court opinion on its mandate to collect government documents under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA).
“What is at stake here is control over history,” said TRC counsel Julian Falconer in a Dec. 3 news release. “While in the last 12 months Canada has produced approximately one million documents, with a century and a half of residential school operations, many more documents remain undisclosed.”
“Put simply, a ‘half loaf’ of documents isn’t going to do it,” Falconer said. “Canada’s complete and unreserved complained with its obligations under the Settlement Agreement should be the standard applied here.”
Work is under way to build a better tomorrow for aboriginal people in Canada one project at a time.
On Tuesday, the Moving Forward Together Gala was held in Regina to raise money for its national campaign.
The organization, still relatively new, was launched in January 2010 and initially piloted in Manitoba.
The MP for the Western Arctic is outraged that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has to take the Feds to court in an effort to get more documents from the residential schools era.
Dennis Bevington said the Conservatives talk a good game when it comes to being transparent on this file.
But he added they are not backing it up.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says he sees no “issue” in his government’s handling of residential school documents and blames the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for creating the controversy that’s slowing things down.
In an appearance Monday before the Commons Aboriginal affairs committee, Duncan said the TRC will get all the documents they need by next summer.
“I fail to see the issue with their documents” said Duncan. “Federally, I think we are in pretty good shape.”
The federal government will release millions of files documenting the abuse suffered by aboriginal children who attended Canada’s Indian residential schools, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Monday.
His statement comes as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission prepares to take the government to court on Dec. 20 to gain access to the files.
Although the government has released 937,000 documents to the commission, millions of records are still sitting in archives across the country. The commission says it wants the remaining files in order to fulfil its mandate of recording the controversial and tragic history of Canada’s residential school system.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is heading taking Canada to court hoping to force the federal government to hand over what they say is much needed documents.
The TRC has collected thousands of statements from survivors of Indian Residential Schools, many who have shared their painful stories of abuse and being torn away from their families. Tens of thousands of children were removed from their homes and put in the schools.
The TRC say part of their mandate is to review millions of government documents but to date only a portion of 150 years of documents have been handed over given.
The feds say they see no issue with how things have been handled.
The commission examining the treatment of aboriginal children at Canada’s residential schools is taking the federal government to court for refusing to release millions of documents that were supposed to form a permanent and public record of the abuses committed.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – established in 2008 as part of the settlement between former students, the Canadian government, the churches that ran the schools, and others – has asked an Ontario Superior Court judge to decide whether Canada is obligated to hand over the material. Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008 for the forced assimilation of more than 150,000 first nations, Inuit and Métis children at the schools. However, Ottawa’s failure to produce the documents threatens to undermine the aboriginal community’s faith in the government, says the Assembly of First Nations.
Justice Murray Sinclair will be among those to attend a special celebration Saturday in Waycobah to honour people who lived to tell about their experiences in residential schools.
Shortly after the passing of the Indian Act in 1876, aboriginal children were removed from their home communities and brought to residential schools where they were forbidden from speaking their native language or practising any element of their culture. The last residential school in the country wasn’t closed until 1996.
This is the first time a team has taken on the task educating students this way in Saskatchewan.
“We are just introducing a new equation into an education system,” Cook said.
A recommendation to go to schools and do presentations about residential schools came out of the Truth and Reconciliation forums held throughout the country this spring.
Former First Nations students who attended day schools in B.C. have signed on to a class-action suit to seek compensation similar to that agreed to by Canada for students at residential schools.
Unlike residential schools such as Lejac, near Fraser Lake in northern B.C. or at Port Alberni on Vancouver Island — where students stayed in dormitories and spent 10 months a year away from home — day-school students were able to go home after school hours to their families in nearby communities.
Although day-school students say they had similar experiences of abuse, as well as loss of their language and culture, they were left out of a 2006 settlement agreement that compensated residential school students.
Years of mounting frustration over access to government records has prompted the commission of inquiry into Canada's residential school system to turn to the courts for help, The Canadian Press has learned.
In court filings, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission accuses Ottawa of stymying requests for documents the inquiry says are vital to its core mandate: "delivery on truth, reconciliation and ultimately healing."
Documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice show the commission worries that Ottawa's alleged intransigence will make it impossible to complete its work as required by July 1, 2014 and within budget.