( St. Anne’s Indian residential school. Photo/National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.)
APTN National News
Ottawa is continuing its court battle against a residential school survivor who attended the notorious St. Anne’s Indian residential school.
The survivor, known only as H-15019, wants a new compensation hearing without federal lawyers present because they previously suppressed evidence to discredit the claim.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for Wednesday in Toronto before Justice Paul Perell.
St. Anne’s, which was located near Fort Albany First Nation in Ontario’s James Bay region, was one of the most notorious residential schools throughout the dark history of the institutions. An OPP investigation launched in the 1990s led to several convictions. The school, which closed in 1976, was home to an electric chair that was used on children who attended there. Children from Attawapiskat attended the school.
Ottawa’s lawyers are asking the court to dismiss H-15019’s application, known technically as a request for direction (RFD), according to recent submissions filed with the Ontario Superior Court. Ottawa says the application for a new hearing should be rejected because it is “premature.” The submission argues the survivor has not exhausted all possible appeal avenues under the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) created by the multi-billion dollar Indian residential school settlement agreement between Ottawa, the churches and survivors.
“Claimant H-15019 has not exhausted the re-review process of the IAP, such that this request for direction is premature,” said Ottawa’s response submission. “In support of the processes of the IAP as well as the rights of Claimant H-15019 thereunder, Canada has signaled its consent for claimant H-15019 to seek a re-review decision…Canada asks this honourable court to dismiss the remaining preliminary relief sought by the claimant.”
Ottawa argues that if the court orders a re-hearing on the grounds requested by H-15019 it would result in a “material amendment” to the Indian residential school settlement agreement.
The federal government is also opposing H-15019’s request federal lawyers involved on the file submit affidavits explaining why they suppressed evidence, including the contents of an OPP criminal investigation, during the IAP hearings that resulted in the St. Anne’s survivor losing out on compensation.
“Canada specifically contests any suggestion that particular federal officials are required to provide affidavit evidence in respect of this matter, and submits that the claimant has not established grounds to compel such evidence,” according to Ottawa’s submission.
H-15019’s lawyer, Fay Brunning, said she would be fighting Ottawa’s move to dismiss the RFD. She said her client does not want to go through another IAP hearing with federal lawyers and adjudicators who violated his rights.
“My client wants court supervision and public accountability by those persons who violated his rights,” said Brunning, in an emailed statement. “These hearings are about very serious child abuse in religious institutions. My client has suffered enough and he wants the justice system to uphold his rights, even against (Justice Canada).”
Since the beginning of the IAP process, federal government lawyers used false narratives of the school, which omitted references the OPP’s criminal investigation and convictions, to defeat abuse claims filed by residential school survivors.
The records shows Justice Canada had evidence of the OPP investigation before the IAP hearings began, but yet never disclosed them during IAP hearings.
Even after the Ontario Superior Court ordered Ottawa in January 2014 to turn over the OPP evidence it held, federal lawyers continued to use the false narratives in H-15019’s case and used it to discredit the survivor’s story.
“During final submissions for the IAP claim…on July 25, 2014, (Justice Canada) relied upon the pre-2014…report and source documentation…and argued that the claimant’s story was improbably and not reliable,” according to one of Brunning’s filings on behalf of H-15019.
During this time, federal lawyers had in their possession proof a priest, who was one of the subjects named in H-15019’s claim, was a “serial sexual abuser.”
Weeks before this happened, the Ontario Superior Court was again compelled to issue a follow-up order in June 2015 and told Ottawa to summarize and reverse redactions on the 12,000 documents it previously released following the 2014 ruling.
NDP MP Charlie Angus, in who’s riding includes Ontario’s James Bay region, said Ottawa’s decision to continue the legal battle against the St. Anne’s survivor made a “mockery” of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s words to survivors at the closing ceremony of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“It’s a travesty of justice,” said Angus. “I am really disturbed by what we seen since the beginning (with) the collusion of the Justice department in protecting perpetrators and suppression of evidence, undermining a legal process that is supposed to bring justice for the survivors.”