FILE – Joyce Hunter, right, whose brother Charlie Hunter died at St. Anne’s Residential School in 1974, and Stephanie Scott, staff at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, lay down a ceremonial cloth with the names of 2,800 children who died in residential schools and were identified in the National Student Memorial Register, during the Honouring National Day for Truth and Reconciliation ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

FILE – Joyce Hunter, right, whose brother Charlie Hunter died at St. Anne’s Residential School in 1974, and Stephanie Scott, staff at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, lay down a ceremonial cloth with the names of 2,800 children who died in residential schools and were identified in the National Student Memorial Register, during the Honouring National Day for Truth and Reconciliation ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

A bitterly fought legal battle between survivors of a brutal residential school and the federal government is slated for an appeal hearing this week over whether the case should now be moved to British Columbia from Ontario.

The underlying fight relates to a request by three survivors of St. Anne’s in Fort Albany, Ont., to have their compensation cases reopened. They argue their claims were settled before Ottawa turned over thousands of relevant documents generated by a police investigation into child abuse at the school.

They also maintain the federal government is still in breach of disclosure orders made by a judge in 2014 and 2015.

The government wants the underlying case and appeal thrown out. It argues, among other things, that a 2006 agreement that ended a class action over abuse inflicted on Indigenous students forced to attend Indian residential schools bars claimants from having their compensation hearings reopened.

Ottawa also maintains the relevant court orders around disclosure barred reopening settled claims — an interpretation the courts have not ruled on.

In June, Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell, who has spent years hearing the case, recused himself. Perell, the judge overseeing the residential school settlement in eastern Canada, indicated he had done so because of previous rulings in which he had been harshly critical of the survivors’ lawyer, Fay Brunning.

ALSO READ: ‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Saanich for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

Perell also decided Justice Brenda Brown of the B.C’s Supreme Court, who has been overseeing the residential school settlement in Western Canada, should hear the claimants’ case in British Columbia. He said it wouldn’t make sense to task a judge unfamiliar with the class-action agreement. Brown agreed to take it on.

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question.

Among residential schools in Canada, St. Anne’s was particularly noxious. Students were subjected to horrific sexual and physical abuse, including being shocked on an “electric chair” to amuse supervisors and forced to eat their own vomit.

Provincial police launched an extensive four-year investigation in 1992, resulting in criminal charges against eight former supervisors and ultimately some convictions.

The claimants — known as T-00185, S-20774 and S-16753 — argue the government’s initial failure to disclose tens of thousands of pages generated by the investigation as well as its withholding of other documents related to the abusers at St. Anne’s despite court orders has compromised the integrity of the settlement process.

Edmund Metatawabin, a longtime activist-survivor of St. Anne’s, and the three claimants from northern Ontario don’t want the case moved. Instead, they want an Ontario Superior Court justice other than Perell appointed to preside over the matter.

“The courts in other provinces should not be given jurisdiction over St. Anne’s matters,” Metatawabin, an Order of Canada recipient, writes in an affidavit. “It will also make it impossible for us to attend.”

For its part, Ottawa argues both Perell and Brown acted within their rights in deciding the geographical shift. In addition, Brown has previously heard several matters related to St. Anne’s, the government says in its court filings.

The Assembly of First Nations disagrees with moving the case.

“If the survivors want the hearing in Ontario, then their request should be respected,” the assembly writes. “After all, the whole (compensation) process was brought about so that residential school survivors would feel that they were being heard, and for their healing and reconciliation to occur.”

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Indigenousresidential schools

Just Posted

Protestors blocking Columbia Avenue Saturday evening. Photo: Betsy Kline
Old growth protesters begin 24-hour blockade of Castlegar’s main street

Members of Extinction Rebellion plan to stay overnight

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Grand Forks musician Nathan Vogel (right) plays the Market Avenue piano installed by the Boundary Street Pianos Project on May 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Boundary music project hoping for funds for street pianos

Coun. Christine Thompson said she’d ask council to fund the initiative if asked by the Downtown Business Association

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Grand Forks’ Brook Thate (left) was given a drive-by parade to mark her graduation from the University of Calgary at her parents’ home Thursday, June 10. Seated in her car is Grand Forks’ Sandra Dorgelo. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks family holds COVID-safe parade for daughter’s university grad

Thursday’s celebration was a small, socially-distanced version of the celebration university grads might’ve had in normal times

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read