Residential school victims lose document fight; court sides with Ottawa

More than 60 lawsuits filed by 154 Indigenous children over the physical and sexual abuse

Survivors of the notorious St. Anne’s residential school have no right to documents they argued were crucial to compensating them for the horrific abuses they suffered, Ontario’s top court has ruled.

In rejecting a trio of interrelated appeals, the Court of Appeal found no reason to interfere with a lower court decision that sided with the Canadian government’s view the documents should be kept secret.

The materials in question were generated during 62 lawsuits filed between 2000 and 2003 by 154 Indigenous children over the physical and sexual abuse they suffered at St. Anne’s in Fort Albany, Ont.

The appellants argued the documents should have been available to bolster compensation claims under a process set up as part of the settlement of a class action over the Indian residential school system.

Two of the appellants — a man known as H-15019 and a woman known as K-10106 — were both initially denied compensation but both succeeded after a legal fight and reviews.

H-15019, who was ultimately awarded $183,556, argued the difficulties he had in advancing his claim arose because of the government’s failure to disclose all relevant documents it had, and that other claimants might have run into the same issue.

However, in its decision this week, the Appeal Court agreed the claimant had no direct tie to the civil litigation materials and the government, therefore, was not obliged to turn them over.

“The discovery evidence at issue was obtained in 62 distinct civil actions,” the Appeal Court said. “H-15019 was not a plaintiff in any of (them).”

In various lower court rulings over the past several years, Superior Court of Justice Paul Perell found the Canadian government had not acted in bad faith by failing to meet its obligations to turn over documents related to criminal proceedings that flowed from the St. Anne’s abuse.

“Nor did he make any finding of reprehensible, scandalous or outrageous conduct on the part of Canada,” the Appeal Court noted.

While Canada did eventually hand over the criminal-related documents, it argued it had no obligation to disclose transcripts and other civil-litigation materials on the basis the information was subject to confidentiality rules. Both Perell and the Appeal Court agreed.

The second appellant, K-10106, alleged her former lawyers had represented the Roman Catholic Church, which ran St. Anne’s during the civil actions, but failed to reveal the connection or that they knew relevant documents existed. She and the third appellant, Edmund Metatawabin, wanted Perell to issue an order the government argued would have essentially reopened the entire compensation process.

Metatawabin, a former chief of the Fort Albany First Nation and St. Anne’s survivor, never applied for compensation but has been active in the various legal proceedings.

Perell, however, found he didn’t have the right to do what was being asked of him. The Appeal Court again agreed with him.

While Perell’s ruling might not have been perfect, the Appeal Court agreed that he simply didn’t have the authority to grant the requested relief.

“In particular, he found that there is no basis to believe that the absence of the documents affected the outcome of her claim,” the Appeal Court ruled. “K-10106 was successful and received a substantial award.”

St. Anne’s, which the plaintiffs described as a “veritable house of horrors” where generations of Indigenous children suffered “unspeakable physical and sexual abuses,” has long been the subject of criminal and civil proceedings. Courts in Ontario and British Columbia have issued about 20 separate decisions and endorsements related to the compensation process involving the now-defunct school.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Salmon Arm youth eyes national event in meeting with Justin Trudeau

Friendship Day founder Brody Paton shares vision for national event with prime minister

Salmon Arm RCMP arrest man suspected of using stolen credit cards

The man was taken into custody while driving a stolen car

Process limits greenhouse gas escape at Salmon Arm Landfill

Fortis BC uses converted biogas to fuel between 300 and 500 homes

City staff find reduction to tax increase

Salmon Arm council opts to stick with 3.3 per cent hike, expecting impact from parcel tax review

CSRD board educated on dangers of radon gas by experts

Revelstoke mayor shares account of health risks associated with gas exposure

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Truck hauling compressed gas for ‘virtual pipeline’ crashes on B.C. highway

Driver charged and highway closed for nine hours - containers did not rupture

Salmon Arm Silverbacks add forward Jack Sampson to the bench

Power-forward brings an imposing frame, tough physical presence to the team

Most Read