Sudbury

Court fight continues for St. Anne's residential school survivors

Survivors of a residential school in Fort Albany, Ont., were back in court Tuesday continuing their legal battle over documents relating to a 1990s criminal investigation into abuse at the school.

Former students seek evidence to back up memories of beatings, rape, use of hand-made electric chair

Boys in a classroom c. 1945 at St. Anne's Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario. (Edmund Metatawabin collection/Algoma University)

Survivors of a residential school in Fort Albany, Ont., were back in court Tuesday continuing their legal battle over documents relating to a 1990s criminal investigation into abuse at the school.

Some former St. Anne's students have shared stories of beatings, rape, and the use of a hand-made electric chair for discipline.

They have been fighting for the full disclosure of documents from a five-year investigation into the school in the 1990s by Ontario Provincial Police.

That investigation resulted in the criminal convictions of six school officials, said the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), which includes the community of Fort Albany.

The documents from the OPP investigation were in the possession of the federal government and last year a group of St. Anne's survivors won a judgment that forced the release of the evidence.

So far, over 12,000 documents have been provided to former students, and to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but NAN said significant sections of information have been blacked out.

"It is shameful that instead of moving toward revealing the truth reflected in the hundreds of signed statements to the Ontario Provincial Police the Government of Canada remains entrenched in an unnecessary fight against the St. Anne's survivors," Fiddler said in a release.

Compensation sought

Lawyers for the survivors are asking the court to ensure the Government of Canada is responsible for making all of the allegations found in the documents available, NAN said.

The former students are seeking compensation through the Independent Assessment Process, a provision of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that provides extra compensation for former students who suffered sexual or severe physical abuse.

"Dumping tens of thousands of unsorted and heavily redacted documents on self-represented claimants or the claimants' lawyers has all but made them useless," said Fiddler.

"It is critical that survivors have proper disclosure and access to these documents in order to be fully compensated."

The justice hearing the matter reserved his decision until a later date.