A court order could destroy the testimony of 30,000 to 40,000 residential school survivors, unless they give permission to have their statements preserved in a national archive.
“Can and should this court order that documents that contain information about what happened at the Indian Residential Schools be destroyed?” Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul M. Perell wrote in his decision released August 7. “My answer to this question is: yes, destruction, but only after a 15-year retention period during which the survivors of the Indian Residential Schools may choose to spare some of their documents from destruction and instead have the documents with redactions to protect the personal information of others transferred to the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.”
Some 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend church-run residential schools in an effort to assimilate them and remove their culture. Children at the schools faced a number of atrocities from physical to sexual and emotional abuse.
“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,” said chief adjudicator Dan Shapiro in a written statement.
Others feel it will be difficult to keep a record of the true history if the documents are not preserved.
“I respect the individual’s concerns, but if we’re going to get the true story, if the true story about residential schools is to come out and be maintained for its proper position in history, we need those testimonies, we need those incident reports,” Michael Cachagee, a 75-year-old survivor of a residential school in Ontario, told TheStar.com.
Perell disagrees and says that if personal information were released even if by mistake, it would be a “grievous betrayal of trust” that would “foster enmity and new harms,” reports HuffingtonPost.ca. Perell also says destroying the records is what the survivors agreed to and would foster reconciliation.