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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Skeena Queen, serving the Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour route has been out of action since early Wednesday morning, forcing BC Ferries to cancel eight sailings connecting the Saanich Peninsula and Salt Spring Island. It is not clear when service will resume. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
BC Ferries cancels sailings between Greater Victoria and Salt Spring Island

With repairs to Skeena Queen underway, it is not clear when service will resume

Victoria police ticketed and impounded the vehicles of two drivers after they were caught speeding through a school zone. (Black Press Media file photo)
Two drivers caught doing nearly triple the speed limit in Victoria school zone

Almost $1,000 in fines, vehicle impounded for each motorist

Michael Arthor Leighton is wanted by the Saanich Police Department for assault. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers/Twitter)
Police seek man wanted for assault in Saanich, multiple charges in other jurisdictions

Michael Arthor Leighton is known to travel around the Island, Saanich police say

Lookout Lake water levels are low as the dam undergoes upgrades. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Colwood dam upgrades projected to be under budget

Province designates Lookout Brook as a high consequence dam should it fail

The Turkey Head Walkway. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay community sees untapped potential in Turkey Head

Part 3 of a closer look at Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks RCMP recommend criminal charges after weekend party

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast a ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Spawning salmon have returned to local streams. (The Canadian Press)
TOP 5: Suggestions for your week ahead

This week – storytime, politics and wildlife

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

Most Read