Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fate of Heart-Wrenching Residential School Abuse Stories Hangs in Balance

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fate of Heart-Wrenching Residential School Abuse Stories Hangs in Balance

Article excerpt

Fate of Indian school abuse stories up in air

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TORONTO - The question of what to do with records of deeply personal, often heart-wrenching testimony from thousands of survivors of Indian residential schools who sought compensation for sexual and other abuse lands on the doorstep of Ontario's top court Tuesday.

On one side of the two-day hearing are those who argue a lower court judge was right to order the material destroyed in due course. On the other are those who believe it should be kept in perpetuity under appropriate lock and key.

Justice Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said his concern is that the stories of what went on in the schools will be lost forever if the "rich trove" of documents is destroyed as ordered.

"In a few generations, that will allow people to be able to deny the validity of the stories we have heard," Sinclair told The Canadian Press from Vancouver. "Right now there are deniers of those facts."

The records in question come from compensation hearings that arose out of the settlement of a class-action suit against the government and others related to the notorious church-run residential schools.

Their accounts under the independent assessment process -- separate from thousands of others who spoke publicly to Sinclair's judicial commission -- were intended to be confidential but the signatories to the class-action settlement never specified what would happen to records of the accounts. Claimants were supposed to have been given a choice at the start of their hearings but weren't.

The claims process turned up the "most significant" stories of the abuse that occurred and they may not have been heard elsewhere, Sinclair said.

"That the survivors testified in front of adjudicators and the adjudicators believed them and awarded compensation is an important part of Canada's national memory. …

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