By Kathleen Martens
WINNIPEG – A Toronto judge has agreed to lock up sensitive residential school student testimony for 15 years.
Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court ruled in a decision released yesterday (Aug. 6) that the records will be destroyed after that time period unless survivors individually decide they want theirs saved.
What is not up to survivors, however, is whether the names of alleged abusers are blacked out. The judge ruled those names will be redacted whether survivors want them identified or not.
Those alleged abusers are people who worked at the schools or other students.
Survivors’ records would be kept at the National Research Centre on Residential Schools at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
Perell’s decision comes after two parties in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSAS) asked him for direction last month. They were: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which wants all the information saved for a complete record on the legacy of residential schools; and the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat (IRSAS), which wants the testimony destroyed.
The judge said survivors can opt in or opt out of the record keeping. He then charged the TRC with collecting survivors’ responses.
The TRC had asked the judge for a 30-year waiting period, while IRSAS wanted survivor testimony destroyed immediately. Its senior adjudicator Dan Shapiro said survivors were guaranteed confidentiality so they would reveal as much information as possible to prove their financial claims for abuse.
Both parties have different mandates under IRSAS: the TRC’s is to gather survivors’ stories publicly and use them for educational and historical purposes, while IRSAS is to process abuse claims under the Independent Assessment Process (IAP).
IRSAS says it has accumulated about 800,000 pieces of information from nearly 38,000 IAP claims. These include IAP forms, transcripts and audio recordings of hearings, decisions, and tens of thousands of supporting medical, education, employment, corrections and other personal records.
Justice Perell is one of the nine supervising judges of the IRSSA.
As APTN Investigates has reported in this story, some survivors favour saving their stories so their suffering is not forgotten. The entire 68-page decision can be read on the website of Ontario lawyer, Julian Falconer.
Shapiro responded to the decision in a written statement, saying he was pleased with Justice Perell’s decision.