Documents related to St. Anne's residential school to be released

Like many survivors, Edmund Metatawabin has struggled to gather the documents required for his compensation claim. Yesterday, the government agreed to release more documents related to the St. Anne's Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario.

Edmund Metatawabin says files from federal government will help support his compensation claim

Edmund Metatawabin, 66, a survivor of St. Anne's residential school in Fort Albany, Ont., wants more documents released to help his compensation claim. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

For the second time in the past year, Edmund Metatawabin was in a Toronto courtroom fighting for the documents that help tell his life story.

Mr. Metatawabin is a survivor of the the St. Anne's Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario. Like many survivors, he's struggled to gather the documents required for his compensation claim.

"We thought the IAP was a good opportunity, a good chance, a good forum for us to present our case, to educate our children, our grandchildren and Canadian public about what really happened in residential school." said Metatawabin in an interview with CBC's Carol Off.  

Yesterday, Metatawabin's lawyer Fay Brunning argued for the federal government to release documents related to the trial of Anna Wesley. Ms. Wesley was an employee at St. Anne's, and in 1999 she was convicted of administering a noxious substance to children.

"Anna Wesley was our supervisor and she was there for the 8 years I was there. She was a very cruel woman." said Metatawabin. "She liked to inflict punishment. A slap on the side of the head with her right hand and then her left hand and then both hands over the years. She liked to inflict pain and one of them was forcing children to eat vomit."

Late yesterday, Brunning said the federal government has now agreed to provide the transcripts in the Anna Wesley trial to the Department of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, where they can be requested by residential school survivors.

"I find it funny that the federal government, the architect of the residential school have the power to release or keep documents hidden away from people." said Metatawabin.

This is another chapter in a long fight for the release of documents related to this school. In January, an Ontario judge ordered Ottawa to hand over documents related to abuse at the school. 

Metatawabin is one of thousands of survivors that are still waiting for their Independent Assessment Process (IAP) claims to be processed. The IAP is an out-of-court procedure for those who experienced sexual, physical or other serious abuses at residential schools.

"IAP process is supposed to be non adversarial but it’s been nothing but adversarial. We’ve been called liars and that we’re making things up and we’re imagining a lot of things." said Metatawabin. "We have no recourse but to go through the courts…which will take years."

Although some fear that survivors may die before getting their settlements, Metatawabin says he is committed.

"We have time. We've been here for 10,000 years. We can still be here for 10,000 more."

with files from As It Happens


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