Residential School Survivors Should Retain the Right to Their Own Testimonials
Dear Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
According to the Toronto Star, the Canadian Federal Government is now trying to ensure that Survivors of brutally violent residential schools will not have access to their own testimonials given during hearings at the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) despite the fact that Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court decided in August 2014 that these documents should be preserved for 15 years so that Survivors could decide whether or not their stories should be preserved. These testimonials were given in good faith as Survivors sought both compensation for abuses they endured as children, and for acknowledgement of their ongoing pain and suffering.
Quoting an August 2014 Globe and Mail Article, "It is the survivor’s story to tell or not tell and it is the survivor’s individual decision that must be respected,” Justice Perell wrote in his 68-page ruling, which says the records in question, submitted by individuals seeking compensation, will have to be wiped of personal information related to “alleged perpetrators or affected parties.” (Globe and Mail, "Residential School Testimony Should Be Destroyed After 15 Years, Court Rules," Kathryn Blaze Baum, 7 August 2014).
See the two articles below. The first is the Canadian governments decision to try to overrule Justice Perell's 2014 decision. The second is about Justice Perell's decision that Survivor testimonials should be preserved for 15 years.
Below are some VERY strong reasons why people need to sign this petition.
First off, it was a deplorable act that the Canadian government obstructed justice in the Independent Assessment Process by withholding a minimum of 40,000 pages of evidence of abuses from the IAP, then lied about abuses that were wielded against children as young as 4-years old at St. Anne's residential school. To paraphrase, the Department of Justice, at the start of the IAP a number of years ago, provided the statement that "there was no known evidence of physical or sexual abuse against the children of St. Anne's." Meanwhile, the government had those 40,000 pages of evidence since 2003 which clearly documented that: serial sexual and physical abuses had occurred; a Christian brother had built an ELECTRIC CHAIR and children were electrocuted in this chair; children were forced to eat their own vomit (sometimes days old vomit); and this list goes on and on. These are children who had been forcibly removed from their families and the communities of Fort Albany, Peawanuck, Attawapiskat, Kashechewan and Weenusk. Some children were never allowed to visit their families while interned at this notoriously violent school. BUT St. Anne's is just one example of hundreds of schools collaboratively funded and administrated by the Canadian government and church bodies.
The Canadian government is now arguing that they should be the 'protector' of residential school documents rather than the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), a body independent of the Canadian government. This must not happen. Survivor testimonials and documents of the residential schools need to be entrusted to the NCTR or to the Survivors themselves rather than a government body.
We know that the Canadian government as an amoral institution cannot be trusted with these documents, cannot be trusted to rewrite Canada's history in a way that is truthful and accurate, especially considering that the horrors of the residential schools were hidden for so very long. This is a very strong case in point.
As in the on-going St. Anne's case against the Canadian government, we know and understand that by law some names will need to be redacted from documents to ensure privacy before they become publicly accessible; to argue that these documents should not be available and accessible to Survivors, their kin, Canadians, historians and researchers through the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation holds no water. It is well known that there are very fine-tuned redaction programs to ensure that privacy can be protected in an efficient and timely manner.
Prime Minister, I am asking people to sign this petition to ensure that Canada does not secure the right to repress indigenous history from residential school Survivors, Canadians, and the rest of the world. By signing this petition we can help to ensure that Survivors of residential schools and their kin might always have access to their courageously shared stories. The Survivors and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation must remain the keepers of all residential school documentation. It is time for the truth to come out. It is time for the Canadian government to stop their hard-handed measures of meddling in matters that belong to the First Peoples of this land. If there was ever a Canadian Prime Minister who might ensure that things are done right, that a truer and more just Canada might prevail, you are that Prime Minister. You are being urged to do right in this case.
Susan G. Enberg,
Documentary Filmmaker & Human Rights Activist
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