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Feds absent from TRC events and are withholding archives
Lack of cooperation from the federal government, both in providing court-ordered documents and participating in residential school survivors events, was a concern recently raised by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC, said that the lack of both an inventory of documents available as well as documents themselves from both the federal government and the four churches, which are party to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, has forced the TRC to ask the judges monitoring the agreement for direction.
“Document collection has proven to be a challenging experience for all of us, the commission as well as the parties,” said Sinclair.
Sinclair suggested that neither the federal government nor the four churches (Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and United) were aware of the massive amount of documents that would be involved. For many of the churches, he added, it’s a matter of going through boxes “stored in basements” and cataloguing the material. He singled out the Catholic Church for “some of the best cooperation” in providing archival material.
“The issue of the degree of cooperation we received is often a reflection of the magnitude of the work involved,” said Sinclair.
He noted that the federal government still has not provided the TRC with the full documentation that was presented during the litigation case that resulted in the IRSSA.
“It is clear that if they were filed in the legal proceedings, they’re relevant, so it should have been automatic that we were given them,” he said.
The interim report of the TRC states that the federal government “has yet to provide the commission with appropriate levels of access to federal archives—an issue that compromises both document collection and report preparation.”
All documentation is necessary to provide future researchers with a database to help understand residential schools and their impacts on Aboriginal life, said Sinclair.
Among the points that the TRC is asking the judges to clarify is whose financial responsibility it is to inventory and collect the documents.
“If we are obligated to undertake all of that and pay for the cost of that it will far exceed our financial capacity as a commission and we think that the settlement agreement is clear that it is the … defendant parties responsibility to put their documents into order, to show us what they’ve got, so we can make determination about what it is that we need. And we have not been able to reach agreement on that,” said Sinclair.
Along with lack of cooperation with documentation, the TRC charged the federal government with being noticeably absent at TRC national and regional events.
“We do not have representatives of the federal government, either at the administrative or political leadership level,” said Commissioner Marie Wilson. “We are concerned about the glaring hole if everybody is to live up to their ownership of this agreement, this process, and each of their articulated responsibilities toward reconciliation.”
Church officials and a growing number of non-Aboriginals are participating in both TRC national and regional events, Wilson said, adding that health support workers were also present “but that’s an obligation of the federal government.”
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