Why criminal charges of boarding school death will be unprecedented – and extremely complex
Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme said that he regarded the site of the 751 unmarked graves of the former Marieval Indian boarding school as a crime scene.
Bobby Cameron, head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous States (FSIN), said that the death of school children was a “crime against humanity.”
However, after the discovery of hundreds of previously unknown tombs at the former boarding school for the second time in less than a month, there is no sign that any form of criminal charges will be brought against these deaths.
The Indigenous Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) stated that these allegations are not only justified but necessary if Canada wants to fulfill its promise of reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
“If they commit crimes, then they need to be held criminally responsible for these actions,” said Lynne Groulx, chief executive officer of NWAC.
The well-known indigenous advocacy group asked Canada this week to file criminal charges against those responsible for running boarding schools where children died.
“No one is above the law. Everyone is equal before the law,” Glucks said. “Even our government.”
Criminal proceedings of this nature will have unprecedented complexity.
Here are some key questions that have not been fully answered.
Who will be charged?
NWAC requires charges against the federal government and the churches that operate these schools. The organization does not recommend that any individuals related to the school be charged.
However, as in any criminal case, the charges will be filed by the authorities-which is basically the equivalent of a government trial.
Steven Pink, NWAC’s legal counsel, stated that the lack of legal precedent does not make the case unworthy of consideration.
“It is not appropriate for us to think that there is no institution in this country that can be held criminally responsible,” Pinker said. “We have to try.”
Ottawa has formally apologized to approximately 28,000 boarding school abuse victims and paid more than $3 billion, but no individual or entity has been criminally charged for operating these schools.
What will the charges and subsequent trial look like?
David Millward, a professor of law at the University of Victoria, said that the death of a boarding school may have to be criminally charged under Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
But Millward, a member of Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation in Saskatchewan, said that establishing a viable case would pose a “major challenge.”
“I am personally convinced that crimes against humanity have occurred,” he told CBC. “But this is a separate question, whether you can really prosecute and convict crimes against humanity.”
He said that one of the obstacles is the length of time that has passed since many schools opened. This may make it difficult to prove responsibility for the death of the child beyond reasonable doubt.
The Vatican also refuses to publish some records related to the schools it supervises, although Some individual churches are now publishing other records.
Millward said: “This does not mean that injustices in these schools will be reduced.” “It just means that there is a real reality that can try to convict any responsible person.”
Pinker suggested that the “overwhelming” evidence collected in the truth and reconciliation commission reports and witness statements in the National Investigation of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls could be used to support court charges.
What did the government say?
The NWAC requires Attorney General David Lametti to file charges against the school, which complicates the proposal.
Rametti’s office says he has no power.
According to the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act, if the act is used in a criminal case, the Minister of Justice must agree. Rametti’s office stated that he had no right to order an investigation in the first place.
“Criminal investigations are the exclusive jurisdiction of the police. The Canadian Attorney General and Attorney Generals will not initiate criminal investigations,” Lametti’s press secretary, Chantal Obertin, wrote in an email.
The RCMP said it will work closely with Cowessess First Nation Determine whether criminal charges are necessary ——Although it seems that future accusations will be related to bulldozing tombstones, not to the deaths of children buried there.
Glucks said that if Canada did not file a criminal charge, she would submit the case to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, which will hear cases related to genocide and crimes against humanity.
“We are willing to do this, we must do this,” Glucks said. “This is our responsibility to the community.”
However, only individuals are tried in international courts, not entities such as states or churches.