Since when does the criminal get to decide what evidence gets destroyed? That is a question survivors of Residential School abuse are asking themselves.
The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) will go to court this month to argue that it should destroy thousands of documents and transcripts detailing abuse suffered by Indigenous people in residential schools. The IAP was created by the federal government to determine financial settlements for abuse survivors.
According to Dan Shapiro, chief adjudicator for the IAP, the destruction of evidence is intended to protect the privacy of the victims.
But the main group representing those victims, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will argue before the Ontario Superior Court that the records must be preserved. Acknowledging that medical and financial records of claimants should be kept private, the TRC wants the records to be housed at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.
The federal government supports shredding the records. It argues that much of the information is already in its massive archive documenting the history of the Residential Schools.
In fact, the TRC and abuse survivors have repeatedly taken the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to court, to force it to release promised documents in a timely manner. The government admits that only a fraction of its Residential School records have been released. Given the Tory history of cutbacks and closures of government archives, and the resulting destruction of information seen in Canada’s science libraries, government assurances are worthless.
Actual survivors are loudly protesting the proposed destruction of records. “We must save all those statements,” said Ray Tony Charlie.
“Now further injustice is evident of this system which does not want to keep the evidence of the abuse, trauma and genocide at the hands of the government, churches and so-called school system,” Lorna Bob told APTN news service.
“To be sure that people somewhere have records or copies of records, I believe there will always be something pointing a finger at them and what they did,” Niwaabidahn Debwewin said.
These are the voices that should carry the most weight.