Court orders destruction of IAP documents after 15 years
But residential school students' testimonies will be held for 15 years prior to destruction
An Ontario court has ruled that residential school student testimony given during the Independent Assessment Process should be destroyed after a 15-year holding period.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell’s Aug. 6 decision ordered that the records of some 38,000 former students be destroyed after a 15-year holding period.
That delay would give survivors the chance to decide to maintain their records and have them transferred to an archive, Perell wrote in his decision.
In the meantime, survivors’ records would be kept at the National Research Centre on Residential Schools at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, with the names of alleged abusers blacked out.
The decision comes after two elements of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement approached the court for direction.
One of those parties, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, wanted the information saved to maintain a complete record of the legacy of residential schools, while the second party, the Indian Residential School Adjudication Secretariat, wanted the testimony destroyed.
The secretariat’s chief adjudicator, Dan Shapiro, said the decision affirms the promises of confidentiality that were made to claimants before they chose to give testimony.
“This will be a huge relief to the thousands of claimants who have appeared at our hearings fully expecting that their accounts of the abuse they suffered at Indian Residential Schools would not be made public without their consent,” Shapiro said in an Aug. 7 release.
Shapiro said the secretariat will study the decision and advise claimants on how they can provide their personal information in certain claim records to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation — if they choose to do so.
“We have supported this voluntary right of claimants, provided that documents are redacted to protect the personal information of others, the necessity of which the court also recognizes,” Shapiro said.
The case, heard in mid-July, hinged on whether promises of confidentiality made to those who came forward to tell their stories in private at the Independent Assessment Process — separate from the public Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings — would be breached by archiving transcripts of that testimony.
But others, like Nunavut elder and residential school survivor Piita Irniq, said destroying records would also be “destroying the words of healing, you’re destroying the experience.”
The Independent Assessment Process is just one element of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, which Canadian courts approved in 2007.
But, unlike the Common Experience Payment process, which is available to anyone who attended an Aboriginal residential school, claimants had to apply separately for the IAP.
The IAP was aimed at those former students who suffered sexual or serious physical abuse, and provides them with compensation on top of the CEP.
You can read Perell’s full decision in this downloadable PDF.