Sudbury

Feds ask for independent review of documents for St. Anne's residential school claims

Ottawa is requesting an independent review of thousands of documents detailing sexual and physical abuse of Indigenous children at St. Anne's residential school.

Canada will also provide dedicated health support funding for the survivors during this review process

A group of Altar Boys at St. Anne's Indian Residential School c. 1945 in Fort Albany, Ont. (Edmund Metatawabin collection/Algoma University)

Ottawa is requesting an independent review of thousands of documents detailing sexual and physical abuse of Indigenous children at St. Anne's residential school.

The federal government began funding the Fort Albany school beginning in 1906, and it operated until 1976. 

In the 1990s, the OPP investigated claims of abuse at the school, which led to charges and some convictions of former staff. But documents from the investigation were not made available to former students seeking compensation from the federal government.

In 2014, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had a duty to hand over the records.

Since then, St. Anne's survivors have been fighting to reopen compensation cases that were settled before those documents were released.

Residential school survivor Evelyn Korkmaz says she's glad the government is requesting a review.

"It was very traumatizing to be called a liar, when you knew the person that was sitting in front of you, the adjudicator, and the government official that was sitting there during our hearing, had the documents, [and knew] knew of the abuses that took place," she said.

Korkmaz says she worries what else could happen to erode trust.

In a statement, Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett says she hopes a review can help rebuild trust in the settlement process. She also says Canada will provide dedicated health support funding for St. Anne's survivors during the review process.

"We believe that this approach will balance timely court intervention, inclusiveness and a desire not to require any additional steps from St. Anne's survivors, their families or communities to participate in the review," Bennett said.

"The mistreatment of Indigenous children, including those who attended St. Anne's Indian Residential School, is a tragic and shameful part of our country's history. Regardless of the court's determination, our actions today are intended to demonstrate concrete steps to begin to rebuild the relationship between Canada and survivors of St. Anne's."

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says he hopes justice will prevail. 

"That injustice has hung over the St. Anne's story for the last 10 years, and I'm hoping the government finally realizes they need to do the right thing and give justice to the survivors."

With files from the Canadian Press

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