Transcript: Seeking Justice for St. Anne's Survivors | Jun 18, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "Seeking justice for Saint Anne's survivors. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says ST. ANNE'S RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL OPERATED IN FORT ALBANY, IN THE JAMES BAY TREATY REGION, FOR MOST OF THE LAST CENTURY. AND WITH THE TERRIBLE DISCOVERY IN KAMLOOPS OF THE REMAINS OF 215 CHILDREN, WHAT HAPPENED THERE IS UNDER NEW SCRUTINY, IN ADDITION TO LONGSTANDING LITIGATION THAT'S STILL UNRESOLVED. OUR NORTHEASTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST NICK DUNNE HAS BEEN LOOKING INTO THAT AND HE JOINS US NOW FROM SUDBURY.

Nick is in his twenties, clean-shaven, with wavy brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, gray shirt and golden tie.

Jeyan continues HEY, NICK

Nick says HI, JEYAN.

Jeyan says LET'S START BY GOING BACK A LITTLE BIT. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ST. ANNE'S HISTORY?

A satellite view of Canada pops up briefly and homes in on Northern Ontario, into Fort Albany, on James Bay.

A black and white picture shows a large three-storey building.

Nick says WELL, AS YOU SAID, ST. ANNE'S OPERATED BETWEEN 1902 AND 1976, IN PART BY THE OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE. SAME CATHOLIC ORDER THAT RAN THE KAMLOOPS SCHOOL. SO IT WAS WIDELY CONSIDERED TO BE ONE OF THE WORST RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS IN THIS COUNTRY. IN ONE COURT DECISION THAT I TALK ABOUT, JUSTICE PAUL PARRELL SAYS SOME OF THE WORST ACTS IN THE RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SYSTEM HAD OCCURRED AT THIS SCHOOL. SO IT IS A SITE OF A LOT OF PAIN FOR THE WHOLE JAMES BAY COMMUNITY.

The caption changes to "A tragic history."

Jeyan says NOW, FOR YOUR LATEST FOR TVO.org YOU'VE WRITTEN A PRETTY DETAILED TIME LINE ON THE LEGAL PROCESS THAT'S BEEN GOING ON BETWEEN THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT AND THE SURVIVORS OVER COMPENSATION. HOW DID THE LEGAL CASE GET STARTED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Indigenous Stories. "'So they can be at peace': Saint Anne's residential school survivors still fight for justice. By Nick F. Dunne."

The caption changes to "Nick Dunne. Northeastern Ontario Hub Journalist."

Nick says YEAH. THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION. I MEAN, KIND OF IN THE EARLY 2000s, THERE WERE A WHOLE SERIES OF CIVIL CASES BEING BROUGHT UP BY RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SURVIVORS AND THIS LED IN 2006 TO THE CREATION OF THE INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT. THIS WAS DONE BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS, COUNCIL FOR SURVIVORS, AND VARIOUS CHURCH ORGANIZATIONS. OVER 30,000 PEOPLE APPLIED THROUGH THE VARIOUS SETTLEMENT PROCESSES AND OVER 3 BILLION dollars WAS DOLED OUT. IT WAS THE LARGEST SETTLEMENT IN CANADIAN HISTORY.

Jeyan says WAS ST. ANNE'S INCLUDED IN THAT? I UNDERSTAND THE ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE ALSO DID AN INVESTIGATION IN THE EARLY '90s AS WELL.

The caption changes to "A legal fight for reconciliation."
Then, it changes again to "Nick Dunne, @NickFDunne."

Nick says YES. SO BETWEEN 2022 AND 1997, THERE WAS AN OPP INVESTIGATION INTO THE ABUSES AT ST. ANNE'S. OVER 700 PEOPLE HAD LEFT SOME KIND OF WRITTEN TESTIMONY OR ORAL TESTIMONY. IT LED TO THE CONVICTION OF SIX PEOPLE, FORMER STAFF AT THAT SCHOOL. NOW, FAST FORWARD NOW TO 2007, THE PROCESS BEGINS FOR COMPENSATION. AMONG THE THINGS THAT THESE COMPENSATION CLAIMS INVOLVED WERE WHAT THEY CALLED SCHOOL NARRATIVES AND PERSON-OF-INTEREST REPORTS. THESE WERE REPORTS CREATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO EFFECTIVELY SUMMARIZE ANY ALLEGATIONS OR CONVICTIONS OF ABUSE THAT HAD HAPPENED AT THE SCHOOL, AND IT WASN'T UNTIL 2012 THAT IT WAS DISCOVERED BY ONE OF THE SURVIVORS' LAWYERS THAT THESE OPP RECORDS, THE INVESTIGATIONS, OVER 12,000 PAGES OF TESTIMONY, RECORDS, FILINGS, AND DOCUMENTS WEREN'T INCLUDED IN THOSE KEY EVIDENTIARY DOCUMENTS THAT ADJUDICATORS COULD REVIEW IN THEIR CLAIMS. SO, YOU KNOW, THERE WERE WELL OVER 160 PEOPLE WHO WENT THROUGH THOSE CLAIMS WITHOUT ACTUALLY HAVING THAT EVIDENCE.

Jeyan says NOW, WHAT SORT OF HAPPENED WITH THOSE OPP DOCUMENTS? I KNOW THERE'S SORT OF A BACK AND FORTH WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND THE LAWYERS HERE. SO WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THAT SO FAR?

Nick says RIGHT. SO THERE WAS A 2014 DECISION THAT COMPELLED CANADA TO PRODUCE THE DOCUMENTS. IT GOT HANDED OVER VERY LOOSELY, ACCORDING TO COURT DOCUMENTS. YOU KNOW, VERY REDACTED. 2015, ANOTHER COURT DECISION WAS MADE TO UNREDACT THOSE DOCUMENTS FOR ADJUDICATORS AS WELL AS UPDATE THOSE NARRATIVE AND PERSON-OF-INTEREST REPORTS, AND THEY WERE UPDATED FOR CLAIMANTS WHOSE CASES WERE STILL ONGOING. BUT FOR THOSE WHO WEREN'T RESOLVED... OR WHO HAD BEEN RESOLVED, RATHER, THEY'VE BEEN TRYING THROUGH VARIOUS MEANS TO GET THOSE DOCUMENTS TO SEE IF THEY CAN REASSESS THEIR CLAIMS. BUT THEY ALLEGE THAT THEY HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO, AND THAT TAKES US TO 2020 WHEN THERE WAS A REQUEST BY THE FORMER CHIEF OF FORT ALBANY WHO HAS BEEN KIND OF LEADING THE SURVIVORS' ASSOCIATION THERE. HE FILED EFFECTIVELY A CLAIM SAYING THAT THE 166 PEOPLE WHOSE CLAIMS WERE PROCESSED WITHOUT THIS EVIDENCE SHOULD BE ABLE TO HAVE THEIR CLAIMS REHEARD, AND THAT'S WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON EVER SINCE.

Jeyan says NOW, EARLIER THIS MONTH, THE HOUSE OF COMMONS VOTED ON A MOTION FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO END THIS COURT BATTLE WITH SURVIVORS. WHAT HAPPENED THERE AND WHERE ARE WE AT WITH THAT SO FAR?

Nick says YEAH. SO THAT WAS ON JUNE 7TH. IT REQUESTED A NUMBER OF THINGS FOLLOWING VARIOUS TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION CALLS TO ACTION, ENDING VARIOUS LITIGATIONS WITH FIRST NATIONS CHILDREN AND SURVIVORS, INCLUDING ST. ANNE'S. THEY SPECIFICALLY NAME THAT ASSOCIATION. AND THEY BASICALLY ASKED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO SIT DOWN WITH THE ST. ANNE'S SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION TO END THIS CASE OR TO FIND SOME KIND OF RESOLUTION TO IT, YOU KNOW, PERHAPS OUTSIDE OF COURT OR WHAT HAVE YOU. BUT, YEAH. SO THAT'S ONGOING. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SUBMITTED A PROGRESS REPORT ON THURSDAY EFFECTIVELY LAYING OUT, YOU KNOW, WHAT THEY'VE BEEN DOING TO... WHAT THEY'VE BEEN DOING IN RESPONSE, RATHER, TO THAT MOTION THAT THE NDP PUT FORWARD. IT HAS TO STILL BE CHECKED OVER BY THE INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE WITHIN PARLIAMENT, BUT THEY HAVE SUBMITTED THAT REPORT FOR THE COMMITTEE.

Jeyan says FOR YOUR ARTICLE YOU SPOKE TO LEGAL COUNSEL.

The caption changes to "Towards the future."

Nick says I SPOKE WITH JENNIFER LEETCH A VISITING PROFESSOR AT OSGOODE HALL. SO SHE BASICALLY SAID AND HER WHOLE ARTICLE FOCUSES ON THE CONDUCT AND APPROACH GOVERNMENT LAWYERS TOOK IN THIS WHOLE PROCEEDING AND SHE IS FOLLOWING UP WITH ANOTHER ARTICLE. YOU KNOW, I THINK... SHE DESCRIBED IT AS A WAR, YOU KNOW, THE TACTICS THAT WERE BEING USED HERE, TALKING ABOUT WHEN THEY HAD TO GIVE THESE OPP DOCUMENTS OVER TO THE COUNSEL OF SURVIVORS, SHE SAID THEY WERE VERY LOOSE AND THAT'S A LEGAL NO-NO. THE THING SHE POINTS OUT WAS THIS PROCESS WAS INTENDED FOR RECONCILIATION, AND TO, YOU KNOW, ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN THESE SCHOOLS, PARTICULARLY AT ST. ANNE'S, WHICH IS ESPECIALLY NOTABLE IN ITS ABUSE OF CHILDREN AND THE WAY IT HAS AFFECTED THAT REGION TO THIS DAY, YOU KNOW, I THINK SHE SAYS THAT OBVIOUSLY THERE'S AN OBLIGATION FOR GOVERNMENT LAWYERS TO BE DEFENDING THE GOVERNMENT. HOWEVER, AT A CERTAIN POINT PERHAPS SHE SUGGESTS THAT IN THE SPIRIT OF RECONCILIATION, IN LIGHT OF WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SCHOOL, THAT THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD EASE UP AND PERHAPS COME TO A SETTLEMENT.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says SOMETHING THAT WE WILL DEFINITELY KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, NICK, FOR THIS.

Nick says THANK YOU.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Seeking Justice for St. Anne's Survivors