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Call to Action # 29: Justice (25-42)

St. Anne’s lawyer calls for inquiry into Justice Canada’s handling of school records

April 30, 2024

APTN News: A lawyer representing survivors of St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in northern Ontario says there needs to be a public inquiry into how Justice Canada handled documents related to them.

“What needs to happen is a proper inquiry and bring in the people who made these decisions,” Fay Brunning told a Senate committee that is holding hearings into residential school documents. Have them testify and be tested under oath because that’s reconciliation in my view.

“When the internal processes, what happens behind the curtains, you draw back the curtains and see what’s happening. What are the side deals? Where are they and who made them? Those people have to be held accountable.”

St. Anne’s, located in Fort Albany on the shores of James Bay, was a notorious school that reportedly had an electric chair where children would be disciplined.

Also testifying at the committee in Ottawa were survivors of the school.

“We were deemed to need character adjustment or healing and to be confined, like the above, until their behaviour and eventually their belief system meet the Canadian criteria of acceptable citizen norm,” said Edmund Metatawabin.

St. Anne's
St. Anne’s survivors Evelyn Korkmaz and Edmund Metatawabin outside of the Senate hearings in Ottawa. Photo: Kerry Slack/APTN.

For years, Metatawabin and other survivors have been trying to get documents related to the schools turned over to their lawyers. The federal government under Conservatives and Liberals has fought them every step of the way.

“Seldom in the history of this land are we, the Indigenous population, had the option to influence long-ranging decisions for this country,” he said.

Senator Brian Francis said he understands the trauma involved in retelling these stories.

“Having been to day school for eight years myself it adds a bit more to the heaviness of the day.”

“In my opinion, it’s beyond shameful that Canada has spent so much time and money to prevent these survivors from getting the recognition and compensation they deserve and making them retell the gut-wrenching stories over and over,” said Francis.

“It’s their truth, they need to be heard and believed. To me, it’s shameful, it’s gone on this long.”

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