The Current

Residential school survivors discuss destruction of their testimony

The quest for Truth and Reconciliation encouraged the stories to pour out. But survivors who believed they were promised confidentiality, are now stunned to learn their deeply personal testimony may be archived, and publicly available some day. What should be done with the records of survivors of the residential school system?
Residential school survivor Lorna Standingready is comforted by a fellow survivor in the audience during the closing ceremony of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at Rideau Hall, June 3, 2015. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
"That's where my whole life really started to change, because I got strapped, I got beaten up for speaking my own native tongue, I even got my tongue pulled out and pinched."

Just one of thousands of Residential School Survivors who came forward to testify in recent years.

Residential school survivor Joe George, right, of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, and elder Marie George embrace during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada British Columbia National Event in Vancouver, B.C. in 2015. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

The years-long Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools may have officially completed its work in June, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation just opened its doors this week in Winnipeg.

But it seems there still remains some unfinished business.

It involves records of some of the most personal, and sensitive, survivor testimony... and whether it should be preserved, or destroyed. Some 25,000 former students gave testimony as part of the "Independent Assessment Process", or IAP -- in order to qualify for compensation. 

Their testimony was confidential. But the Truth and Reconciliation Commission believes that the records should be kept -- in some form -- for the historical record. 

Ry Moran is director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

We requested an interview with Dan Shapiro, the chief adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process. He is advocating for the destruction of the documents. He won't be doing interviews while the Court of Appeal is deliberating, 

Vivian Ketchum and Charlie Elmwood Thompson both have a personal interest in what happens to those files. They both testified in the Independent Assessment Process.     

  • Vivian Ketchum testified about her time at the Cecil Jeffrey Residential School in Kenora.  She was in Winnipeg. 
  • Charlie Elmwood Thompson testifed about the time he was taken from his family and sent to the Alberni Residential School.  He also served as a support worker for several others who  testified. He was in Lantzville, B.C. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins, Josh Flear and Sujata Berry.