I was in Toronto on May 20th 2015 with my colleague Ms. Fay Brunning for the hearing in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice representing some students of the residential school known as Bishop Horden in Moose Factory. The hearing dealt with whether the documentary searches done by the federal government with respect to the Bishop Horden Residential School were in fact done properly. In attendance at that hearing were Edmund Metatawabin and Deputy Chief of Mushkegowuk Tribal Council Leo Friday, as well as two Health Officers from NAN, and many other members of the public. APTN, CBC, Toronto Star, TVO were some of the media who were also in attendance at this hearing. There are stories on the internet on May 21st 2015 dealing with the said hearing.
The hearing proceeded as scheduled in front of Mr. Justice Perell, the same judge who decided the St. Anne’s Residential School case last year which determined that the Federal Government had failed to disclosed some 12,000 documents representing over 40,000 pages dealing with an OPP investigation that lasted some five(5) years. Mr. Justice Perell is the supervising judge of the class action settlement involving residential schools.
The main issue before the Court was whether or not the Federal Government had made a sufficient search for documents in its possession dealing with the abuse of the students, not just the students at Bishop Horden, but all the Indian Residential Schools across Canada. By cross examining under oath the officials of the Federal Government, Ms. Brunning had found out that the Federal Government had restricted their search of documents to only Archives Canada and to the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and the Federal Government took the position that such search was sufficient. The position of both Ms. Brunning on behalf of the former students that she represents, and of Stuart Wuttke on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, was that the search by the Federal Government was insufficient. Nine (9) students at Bishop Horden Residential School in Moose Factory recalled a number of supervisors being both dismissed and charged criminally in the 1960’s and the Federal Government had no documentation to that effect in their disclosure to these students in the IAP process. Upon digging, it was revealed that the line departments such as the RCMP, Health Canada and the Department of Justice were never asked to search for any documents in their possession pertaining to sexual or serious physical abuse to Indian Residential School children.
Ms. Brunning asked the Court to order that the Federal Government should still search the line departments such as the RCMP and Health Canada to find any documentation about physical and sexual abuse at the Bishop Horden Residential School. The Assembly of First Nations supported the position of Ms. Brunning. The lawyers for the Federal Government were maintaining that they had discretion in how they did their search and what they had done was sufficient.
If the judge interprets the settlement agreement in favour of the position of both Ms. Brunning and the Assembly of First Nation, this may mean that some of the IAP cases that have already been heard may need to be re-opened if they find some documents with the line departments of the Federal Government such as the RCMP and Health Canada. Those details would be reviewed after the search for documents is properly made and the new documents are reviewed.
It was quite apparent that the judge had read all the material prior to the hearing and he was engaging legal counsel with the issues which he was struggling with to decide. Therefore we are waiting for the decision of the Court but from the demeanor of the judge yesterday and the questions he was asking, it appears that the judge is leaning towards the argument presented by Ms. Brunning on behalf of the applicant and the arguments of the lawyer of the Assembly of First Nations.
May 21st, 2015 SUZANNE DESROSIERS