Opinion Editorial

Residential school survivors need access to information

Thomas Perry

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

We don’t always see eye-to-eye with MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay).

 

But when it comes to attempting to ensure that First Nation victims of sexual, physical and psychological abuse suffered at residential schools receive justice, we are definitely on the same page.

 

Mr. Bisson has written a letter to Attorney General John Gerretsen, published at the bottom of this page, urging that he take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that information gathered by the Ontario Provincial Police during investigations in the 1990s is made available to survivors as their claims are adjudicated.

 

In his letter, our MPP notes: “The conditions faced by children at St. Anne’s were particularly brutal.”

 

As part of its investigations, the OPP gathered nearly 1,000 witness statements and seized documents (more than 7,000 pages) with regard to the allegations.

 

None of that information, however, has been made available to the survivors who are taking part in the federal Independent Assessment Process, or the officials who are adjudicating their claims.

 

As Mr. Bisson rightly points out: “This is particularly important as the allegations regard the sexual abuse and physical torture of children as young as six.”

 

He is quite correct, as well, when he asserts: “The failure to provide this information could undermine the ability of the claimants to obtain a fair hearing.”

 

Regardless of the fact that the adjudication process is federal and the OPP falls under provincial jurisdiction, it is mind boggling to think that the process is already underway without such vital information.

 

Given the pain and suffering endured by the survivors of residential schools, such as St. Anne’s, it is unthinkable that our two senior levels of government would not do everything in their power to ensure that they finally receive the justice they have so long been denied.

 

So, we would hope that Mr. Gerretsen will recognize the urgency of this matter and heed Mr. Bisson’s call for a prompt response.

 

The information gather during the OPP investigations must be shared with the residential school survivors and those conducting the hearings as soon as possible.


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