Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Deputy Chief Alvin Fiddler says it’s time for the federal government to allow former residential school students access to the information they need.
The former students are looking for police documents created during the criminal investigation into abuse at St. Anne’s School in Fort Albany, Ont. to corroborate their cases for the civil claims in the reconciliation process.
“We wrote a letter to the provincial privacy commissioner and we got a response this morning from the privacy commissioner's office saying there really is no reason these records should be denied to the students,” Fiddler said Monday.
A lawyer representing the residential school survivors was in court Tuesday to ask for the documents that, so far, the federal government has denied access to, citing privacy concerns.
Fiddler said that concern should be put to rest.
Hundreds of aboriginal children from the James Bay communities went to Ste. Anne's residential school from 1904 -1976.
The stories of physical and sexual abuse at the school are some of the worst in the country. Survivors say a homemade electric chair was used on children as young as six.
The delays in access to information have taken a toll on the survivors, many of whom are now senior citizens, Fiddler noted.
“What is so incredibly frustrating about this is that they've already suffered enough while they were at residential school with the abuse that were inflicted on them by the church and government,” he said.
“And now they have to go through this process to try and access their records.”
Fort Albany resident Edmund Metatawabin attended St. Anne's.
“It's evidence,” he said of the documents being held by the government.
“It's facts that say we are telling the truth. If somebody hides something, they are afraid that the truth will come out. That's the only way I can see it.”