Saskatchewan

Access to possible Timber Bay documents denied by government

The Court of Appeal in Regina heard today that the federal government is denying access to documents that may pertain to Timber Bay, citing ongoing litigation.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band lawyers seek order for release at Court of Appeal

Michael Swinwood, lawyer for Lac La Ronge Indian Band, says he wants to see what the documents being withheld are before moving forward with the appeal. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Counsel for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, located in northern Saskatchewan, was back in court today, trying to make a case for an appeal over the Timber Bay Children's Home ruling. 

A court case in 2009 found the northern Saskatchewan school wasn't eligible for residential school status, as it was funded but not managed by the government. 

Counsel for the band claimed today that there may be new evidence for the case, but said it was unable to access it. 

Lawyer Michael Swinwood said they made an access to information request last year to the forner Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to get hold of the records. Access was denied, citing ongoing litigation.

Timber Bay Children's Home was located near Lac La Ronge in northern Saskatchewan. (CBC)

"If someone told you there were documents that may be pertinent to Timber Bay, but you don't have them, you wouldn't want to go forward. You'd want to say, I'd like to see where those documents are and what they mean," Swinwood said.

Catherine Coughlan, who represents the federal government, said in court that Swinwood was requesting the documents "without any basis" to their relevance to the appeal. 

The judges require any evidence submitted in the appeals process to be deemed relevant and to be seen to have a likely effect on the appeal. 

Swinwood said they won't fully know until they can observe the documents, but are certain they pertain.  

"We're going to have to dig deeper obviously into the document situation, but it's of such concern that we have to be satisfied before we argue the final appeal that we've seen everything," he said. 

Much of the paper documentation for Lac La Ronge was destroyed in a fire several years ago. 

Swinwood said that's made the process an uneven playing field. 

"Any documents that were kept for Timber Bay would have been destroyed," he said. 

The judges are asking each side to submit written documentation to prove or disprove the relevance of the documents before continuing with the appeal process.