An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled on Wednesday (Jan. 30) that it is not good enough for Ottawa to provide the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with records that can be found in the active files of departments.
Most of the relevant documents were long ago sent to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) for storage, and Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge said the government must now retrieve them so that the commission can fulfill its mandate of compiling a historical record of the residential-schools experience.
Canada’s obligation under a settlement agreement signed in 2006 with the school survivors, the government, the churches that ran the institutions, and others, is straightforward, Judge Goudge wrote.
“It is to provide all relevant documents to the TRC,” which was created as part of the settlement agreement, he wrote. “The obligation is in unqualified language unlimited by where the documents are located within the government of Canada.”
The department of Aboriginal Affairs has turned over a million records and promises hundreds of thousands more. But 23 other departments have refused to do likewise. It is estimated that millions of school-related documents in the archives could occupy 6.5 kilometres of shelf space, and finding them could cost as much $100-million.