Lawyer says International Criminal Court declines request to open residential school investigation

International criminal court

The International Criminal Court in the Hague. Photo: ICC.

A lawyer who was part of a group lobbying the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Canada and the Catholic Church over the residential school system says they’ve been turned down.

“The ICC prosecutor declined to open a preliminary investigation,” says Andrew Phypers, one of a dozen lawyers who wrote the ICC requesting an investigation. “Part of their reasoning was that they felt they were prevented as the deaths occurred before Canada ratified the crimes against humanity law.”

In June, the lawyers from Canada put a request to the ICC for an investigation saying Canada and its police force can’t be left to investigate these crimes.

Brendan Miller, a Calgary lawyer, told APTN News in June the investigation has to be done by an agency outside of Canada.

“The fact is, the government of Canada, including the RCMP and including the Vatican, including the churches, all have an invested interest in the truth not coming out,” said Miller.

The lawyers filed the request, pro bono, following an announcement in May from the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation that it found what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school.

“The Complaint is regarding the recent discovery of a mass unmarked grave of 215 Indigenous children who were under the forced care of the GOC [Government of Canada] and the Vatican,” the 14 page complaint to the ICC said. “The death of the 215 Indigenous children resulted from their enrolment in the GOC residential school system forced on the Indigenous peoples of Canada by way of GOC legislation and administered by both the GOC and the Vatican.

“The Complainants submit the deaths, mass unmarked grave and general treatment of the 215 deceased children constitute crimes against humanity.”

APTN reached out to the ICC but did not hear back by the time this story was published.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at least 4,000 students died at the 140 institutions the federal government called schools but were used to assimilate First Nation, Inuit and Métis children into Canadian society.

—With files from Kathleen Martens

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