by The Chiefs of Ontario, Jan. 31, 2013
TORONTO – Yesterday the Ontario Superior Court published a decision which made clear the federal government`s obligation to turn over its archival records on Indian Residential Schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.
“The First Nations in Ontario welcome this decision and expect the federal government to provide all documents necessary to assist the TRC to complete its mandate,“ stated Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy.
Justice Stephen Goudge indicated in the court decision that the language in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) is straightforward and that the federal government is responsible to provide all relevant documents to the TRC.
In February 2012, the TRC released an interim report which indicated that the federal government was not fulfilling its obligations as set out in the IRSSA with respect to document production. The federal government was not willing to compile all relevant documents in an organized manner for review by the Commission as was agreed in the IRSSA, specifically those records stored in the Library and Archives Canada. The TRC argued that the research required to locate the records is beyond the scope of their budget and time-limited mandate. As a result the TRC sought out judicial guidance and advice on its mandate and how to ensure timely compliance by all parties in providing documents in accordance with their obligations under the IRSSA. “The TRC is a vehicle to allow our people to tell their stories, to create an historical record and to validate the experiences of thousands of our people. This was a sad chapter in our history but it is one that must be told and the historical record documented and preserved,“ said the Regional Chief.
Regional Chief Beardy pointed out that the 2008 Residential School Apology and subsequent creation of the TRC were viewed as positive steps toward healing and reconciliation, and that the follow through on the mandate of the TRC is critical. “The TRC was created to help in the process of reconciliation and to compile an historical record of the Residential School experience in order that it is never forgotten and never repeated. The federal government agreed that this is a priority and now they must demonstrate that commitment by fulfilling their obligations as set out in the IRSSA,“ stated the Regional Chief.
The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum, and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada.