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

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson announces new infrastructure spending on the Lower Mainland on Monday, flanked by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows candidate Cheryl Ashlie and Maple Ridge-Mission candidate Chelsa Meadus. (Neil Corbett/Black Press)
Wilkinson says plan to rebuild B.C. will work for Vancouver Island

B.C. Liberal leader talks to the News Bulletin about homelessness, forestry, infrastructure

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants

Police say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

Plastic checkout bags could be banned in Nanaimo by next summer if a city bylaw receives provincial approval. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo moves closer to banning plastic and other single-use checkout bags

Nanaimo city council votes to forward checkout bag regulation bylaw to province for approval

Rotary Centennial Garden at Maffeo Sutton Park. (Sean Fenzl photo)
New Rotary garden officially open at Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton Park

Rotary Centennial Garden design inspired by the shoreline

Jenna Forster moderated the Virtual All Candidates Forum between Duck Paterson (top left); Chris Istace (top right); and Doug Routley (Youtube/Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce)
Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates state their case in virtual debate

Duck Paterson, Chris Istace, and Doug Routley are on the ballot for October 24

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

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Candidates in the Nanaimo riding include Kathleen Jones, B.C. Liberal Party, top left; Sheila Malcolmson, NDP; Lia Versaevel, Green Party. (Photos submitted/News Bulletin photo/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding include Chris Istace, B.C. Green Party, top left; Duck Paterson, B.C. Liberals; and Doug Routley, NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Most Read