Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press
Residential school survivor Joe George, right, and elder Marie George embrace during a Truth and Reconciliation Commission event. A judge ruled August 7 that each survivor will decide if their testimony is preserved or destroyed.

Will Destroying Disturbing Residential Schools Testimony Speed Healing?


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.

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Juliet's picture
Submitted by Juliet on
These must be preserved in some way. If they aren't, people can come along later and claim that the schools 'weren't that bad' and that complaints were by 'rebellious, resentful students.' How to do so, while also respecting privacy, is the hitch.

scd's picture
Submitted by scd on
Of course Perell wants the information destroyed..."out of sight, out of mind." The canadian government, the us government and the "religious" institutions that were involved in the horrific boarding schools want it all erased from history. They do not want to be reminded of the atrocities they committed against Tribal people. Healing? How about the said people that were responsible for this #1 Take full responsibility for their actions. #2 Publicly acknowledge it and #3 Make full restitution wherever possible to those involved. Sounds like "Repentance" to me. Something the "religious" institutions that were involved ought to know something about. Or at least that is what they teach, although they do not live by their own rules. One thing I have learned in life is that the white man and its governments hate taking "responsibility" for anything they do wrong. It is easier to just sweep it under the rug and forget about it than facing the truth and taking responsibility for their actions. We all know how true healing comes about. And it doesn't come from running away, hiding, forgetting, denying the problem or pretending the problem never happened. If all of the atrocities that were done against Tribal people were done against white people, there would be an eternal memorial set up that would outlive God! They would NEVER forget, nor would they want anyone else to forget. Steve Fire Heart

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Destroying the evidence and testimony of what happened in these schools will help about as much as NOT teaching history from a Native viewpoint. In the U.S. people are only taught about Custer's Last Stand and erroneous myths about the first Thanksgiving as Native history. They know NOTHING of Lincoln's part in the largest mass execution in American history, they know NOTHING of the "founding father's" part in Native genocide, they know NOTHING about Sand Creek, Wounded Knee I & II, the reasons behind the occupation of Alcatraz or the Washington BIA building. What Native WOULD NOT want his or her story told?