Fort Albany’s Edmund Metatawabin does not want the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) residential school compensation claim records to be destroyed.
“Why would you want to destroy a piece of history,” Metatawabin said. “It’s the pain of the survivors that is there and you cannot destroy pain from your survivors.”
Metatawabin said it took a “lot of courage” for the survivors to recall what had happened to them during residential school.
“If we destroy evidence from the Holocaust (where about six million Jews were killed by the German military during World War II), that is not even considered,” Metatawabin said. “If you destroy something as valuable as that and sacred as that — it’s very sacred — you deny your grandchildren (and) Canadians knowledge of something very bad that happened. You have to learn from it. This is history; do not destroy history.”
Dan Shapiro, IAP’s chief adjudicator, called for the destruction of all records related to claims of abuse suffered by students at residential school during the 2014 Access and Privacy Conference, held June 19-20 in Edmonton, Alberta.
“In the IAP, promises of confidentiality were properly made to claimants,” Shapiro said.
“These promises must be kept. After careful analysis and reflection, I have come to the realization that the only way that the confidentiality of participants can be respected and their dignity preserved is through the destruction of all IAP records after the conclusion of the compensation process.”
Metatawabin hopes that art works, such as theatre productions or movies, will be created in the future based on what happened in the residential schools.
“I don’t want anyone to ever forget that I was made to eat my own vomit,” Metatwabin said. “Somebody has to learn from that.”
Metatawabin is concerned that if the residential school compensation claim records are destroyed and the residential school survivors have passed on, there will no longer be any concrete evidence of what happened in the residential schools.
“When residential school used the electric chair, it has been been accepted that it is torture,” Metatawabin said. “And if you destroy that evidence, where is the supporting documentation.”
The IAP was established under the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to compensate former students who suffered sexual, physical or emotional abuse at residential schools.
The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, which manages the IAP, has collected about 800,000 documents related to about 38,000 applications it has received from former residential school students, including application forms, transcripts and audio recordings of hearings, decisions and a variety of medical, education, employment, corrections and other personal records submitted by claimants.
“These records, including the medical, educational, and financial records of survivors, should not be given a longer life and broader exposure simply because they relate to someone who was abused at a residential school,” Shapiro said. “The history and legacy of residential schools must never be forgotten. But the price of remembering must not be a betrayal of those who were abused as children in those schools.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the IAP had announced on May 14 that they were seeking court direction on the ultimate disposition of records produced as a result of the IAP proceedings. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice is scheduled to hear the case from July 14-16.
“In its court filings, the government of Canada has advised that it does not intend to destroy the records submitted by claimants during the IAP proceedings,” said Kimberly Murray, TRC’s executive director. “The government has decided to send some of these records to Library and Archives Canada, where they will be kept permanently and eventually made available to the public. In these circumstances, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has asked the court to designate the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation as the safest and most respectful place to protect those records that the government will not be destroying. The NRC has the governance structure to ensure Aboriginal control over its own records.”
The National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is being established at the University of Manitoba to house and protect all of the documents, statements and other materials collected by the TRC during its mandate.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission agrees with survivors that the private medical records of survivors submitted during the IAP should be rendered permanently inaccessible to anyone, including government officials,” Murray said.
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