North

Destroy 'highly personal' residential school records, NTI says

Fate of Independent Assessment Process records before the Supreme Court of Canada

CBC News

May 29, 2017

The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa is the end of the line for the debate on whether the residential school records will be kept or destroyed. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Inuit are opposed to the federal government's position in the Supreme Court case which will decide whether to preserve or destroy "highly personal" accounts of residential school survivors.

The Government of Canada is arguing that the Federal Access and Privacy legislation mandates these records be preserved in national archives.

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Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which speaks for Inuit in Nunavut, says all Independent Assessment Process records should be destroyed, unless an individual survivor opts for theirs to be kept.  

The Supreme Court started hearing arguments in the case on Thursday.

"The main issue is whether the 30,000 highly personal and descriptive, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse records by residential school survivors will be destroyed or not," NTI's Bruce Uviluq​ said.

He says the nature of small Northern communities means, even if names were redacted, making these stories public could expose Inuit residential school survivors.

Uviluq​ says the Inuit position is shared with Chief Adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process, the Assembly of First Nations and the Catholic Church.

The Independent Assessment Process records were collected to determine the amount of compensation claimants would receive per the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

These, sometimes graphic, testimonies were collected with the promise of confidentiality. 

Rosemarie Kuptana is a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. She says she wants to see the records destroyed. (Submitted by Rosemarie Kuptana)

They included medical and financial accounting and other information relating to survivors' experience in residential schools and the consequences of those experiences in the years after.

"Some people absolutely want to share their stories as part of the historical record, and I think that a large percentage want them never to be shared," Uviluq said.

Rosemarie Kuptana is a plaintiff in the case and an Inuk who says she wants the records destroyed.

She says that no other Canadians have to consider having all that personal information made public.

"There was a very public process, which was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and many people had the opportunity to tell their own stories there, so I see very little excuse for the federal government to be in the possession of these documents," she said.

She says the Independent Assessment Process was independent of the federal government and therefore she does not agree with the government argument that the documents fall under federal access laws.

Uviluq says a decision is not expected for months, but when it is it will be final.

"The Supreme Court has shown progressive decisions towards Indigenous peoples in the last couple years, so we're hopeful," he said. "But only time will tell."

Corrections

With files Jordan Konek
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