Ottawa has power to legally request church documents on residential schools: official


A federal government official told a parliamentary committee Thursday that documents on churches that operate residential schools should have been disclosed under a 2006 agreement and that Ottawa has the legal power to go to court to pursue those records. that have not yet been released.

The issue of undeclared church documents has been raised as a matter of concern, almost two weeks after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the discovery of the remains of 215 children who attended the former Kamloops Indian Residential School . Former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman Murray Sinclair told the House of Commons Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee that there are still church records that have not been revealed.

Responding to questions from Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski, Canada’s Assistant Deputy Minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Martin Rehr, told the same committee on Thursday that Ottawa could file a request for direction with an oversight court to produce the documents. . If they were located outside Canada, it would make the process more complicated in terms of jurisdiction, Mr Reiher said.

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Mr Reiher said some of the documents were disclosed as part of litigation under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement of 2006 between legal counsel for alumni of schools, legal counsel for churches, Indigenous organizations and the Canadian government. represented a consensus.

He said five million documents were collected from the trial and transferred to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation. If other documents exist but have not been disclosed, the settlement agreement appears to exist through the court to force Ottawa to release them, Mr. Rehr said.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Caroline Bennett, who testified before the committee, said the prime minister contacted the Canadian Council of Bishops and spoke to them this week. He said the federal government has been very clear that it expects the church to release all relevant documents.

“I think the diocese in Vancouver is open to this,” Ms. Bennett said, adding that the bishops in the north have also been willing.

“I believe we need these documents from the church.”

In a statement last week, Archbishop Michael Miller said the Archdiocese of Vancouver would be “completely transparent” with its archives and records regarding residential schools. He called on all Catholic and government organizations to do the same.

Ms Bennett said that to identify children lost from residential school, the churches’ records “must be handed over and we will continue to pursue that.” There are believed to be other unmarked burial sites of former residential schools across Canada, an issue that was highlighted in a final 2015 report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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On Tuesday, NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced a resolution in the Commons on the Catholic Church that included calls such as a formal papal apology for the church’s role in establishing, operating and mistreating residential schools. The commission has also included this call to action in its report.

In 2018, parliament called on the pope to apologize and move forward with compensation, with Mr Angus saying, “After the 215 bodies of those children were found, the Church can no longer ignore the will of the Canadian people.”

Mr Trudeau said last Friday that he had asked Pope Francis to apologize during a visit to the Vatican several years ago. He said, as a Catholic, he is deeply disappointed by his refusal to acknowledge the role of the Church in the legacy of residential schools. The Prime Minister also said that it was an important moment to reach out to parishes, bishops and cardinals to demand that the institution be held accountable.

The national Indian residential school crisis line number is 1-866-925-4419. British Columbia has a First Nation and Indigenous Crisis Line offered toll-free through the KUU-US Crisis Line Society at 1-800-588-8717.

Tavia Grant. with a report of

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