By Christine Miskonoodinkwe- Smith
TORONTO – A small group of people showed up at the Superior Court in Toronto yesterday to show support for the survivors of St. Anne’s Residential School. The Superior Court is holding a hearing about St. Anne’s Residential School Survivor Angela Shisheesh’s standing regarding a Request for Direction (RFD) that she has brought before the court.
Shisheesh, is a class member of the class action Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) that was signed in 2006. All persons who attended an Indian Residential School before December 31, 1997 are class members. That includes Ms. Shisheesh even though she did not seek IAP (Independent Assessment Process) compensation.
The Court, despite not making this argument when the RFD was initially filed, argues that members of the IRSSA class waived their right to civil process through the courts, but this needs to be understood as conditional on Canada’s compliance with the IRSSA’s terms. Canada has not been compliant, and government lawyers have suppressed thousands of pages of evidence that documented horrific crimes of abuse, torture and child rape at St. Anne’s.
Shisheesh has testified in support of other claimants whose claims were initially dismissed due to the concealment of critical documents and testimonies by government attorneys. Shisheesh’s RDF includes forcing the government to admit the abuse and testimony about St. Anne’s that she has already proven in a 2003 civil action as true, to have the court declare that it is her decision alone whether to file her testimony with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to investigate and determine if the government lawyers are still covering up the testimonies of up to 1000 former students of St. Anne’s
In a press conference outside the Superior Court in downtown Toronto, Edmund Metatawabin, author of Up Ghost River and a leader in the case of St. Anne’s Residential Schools and his stand against evidentiary documents not being destroyed said, “For me, it’s quite embarrassing for the government to say that we have no standing, or at least the court to say we have no standing. And it’s something however that highlights the policy of Canada when they say we still have a band number, we live on numbered reserves, reserves that are off bounds to the Canadian public there are only registered members or people who can go on these reserves. This is exclusion and because of this exclusion it is hard for us to feel a part of the Canadian scenario, be part of things that are happening in Canada, to be included and to be able to speak for ourselves. and one day we hope to speak for ourselves and make our homes, our schools and infrastructures just like anybody in Canada.”
“We’re still going to be fighting for documents that are being kept by the government and we also include the Catholic church in this process because they were the caretakers in the institution called St. Anne’s Residential School. The documents are important for us because it supports what we have been saying all along that abuse was rampant to us, committed against us, by the caregivers which includes the Catholic church members repeatedly for a long time. The electric chair that was in use started in 1941 and was still there when I was going there in 1960 and a reality for our elders and many that went there. When the issue of standing is being considered we are continuing that incarceration of First Nations people within their own country.”
Shisheesh followed by saying, “It’s true that we are the prisoners as Indigenous people. Like he said we are all numbered, we all have to go through our numbers on the numbered reserves yes there was a lot going on in that school, and we cannot stay silent forever because a lot of our brothers and sisters are in the closet and never came out and told their story. I don’t think I have to stay silent anymore.”
Also in attendance at the rally was Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day and NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus.