New advisory committee to transfer millions of unreleased residential school documents announced

The Trudeau government announced a new committee Wednesday that is tasked with identifying millions of unreleased residential school documents.

“That’s the importance of our work here for the last two days is a plan to transition around 19 million documents outside government to an institution that will support and in this case it’s the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba,” advisory committee chairperson Cadmus Delorme said during a press conference at the Native Women’s Association of Canada offices in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa.

The six-person committee includes residential school survivors Eugene Arcand from Muskeg Lake First Nation and Ted Quewezance of Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Survivor Shirley Horn from Missanabie Cree First Nation and University of Ottawa Métis research chair Brenda Macdougall from Ontario.

The committee also includes intergenerational survivor Gwen Point from the Skowkale First Nation in British Columbia and survivor Maata Evaluardjuk-Palmer from Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet) in Nunavut.

Delorme, who is a former chief of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, said 16 research teams are being assembled from coast to coast to identify documents from 140 residential schools.

“The committee’s role is to help in Canada’s journey in reconciliation,” he said. “Truth and reconciliation is amongst us…This might be a discussion about documents but it’s to help truth telling and the more as Canadians we learn the truth, the more that reconciliation can come…”

At the same time, Minister of Crown Indigenous-Relations Marc Miller said there are some residential school documents that will never be released.

“Often when we’ve asked to have all documents available we butt up against some decisions of the Supreme Court when it comes to the IAP (independent assessment process) documents,” he said. “The individual testimonies that were given as part of the Indian Residential School Settlement that as the Supreme Court said benefit from absolute privacy obviously because of the context in which they were given in.”

The advisory committee has four and a half years to file a report to the government.

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