Between 1992 and 1996, the Ontario Provincial Police investigated claims of physical and sexual abuse made by former students of St. Anne’s. The investigation resulted in criminal charges against seven former employees, five of whom were convicted. St. Anne’s is located around Fort Albany Ont., near the James Bay Coast and was in operation from 1903 to 1973
The appellants in Fontaine v. Canada (Attorney General), 2020 ONCA 688 say that the Government of Canada owes them the documentation from that OPP investigation. They argue that despite two court orders from 2014 and 2015, the Government has yet to produce the material and is in breach of the IRSSA.
In 2006 and 2007, the IRSSA was approved by nine Superior Courts across Canada. The IRSSA combined various class actions and civil claims related to Indian Residential Schools and included a class of around 79,000 people. The IRSSA established the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) as a method to determine financial compensation for the class members under the settlement.
Under the settlement, the Government was required to disclose everything it knew about every allegation of child abuse at every Residential School but the Department of Justice had withheld the information produced from the 1992 OPP investigation, says Fay Brunning, counsel for Metatawabin and the appellants. The federal officials in charge of adjudicating the IAPs were interviewing former St. Anne’s students without access to the testimonies detailing physical and sexual abuse, she says.
“Adjudicators were given none of these documents and they were given a report saying there were no documents about sexual abuse at this school whereas the details would make anybody physically sick to realize what the children endured in this institution,” Brunning says.
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