Why is it so difficult to retrieve previous boarding school records


Hundreds of potentially unmarked graves were found near former boarding schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, prompting calls for the Catholic Church, which operates dozens of institutions across the country, to publish its records.

Last week, Cowessess First Nation announced the initial discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian boarding school. At the same time, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation said last month that preliminary scans conducted near the former boarding school in Kamloops indicated that the remains of an estimated 215 children may have been buried at the site.

CBC News investigated the governments and agencies that own these records, the information they contain, their importance, and the challenges of retrieving them.

What is the obligation to hand over these records?

In 2007, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established after the implementation of the Indian Boarding School Placement Agreement, which reached agreements with former students, the church’s legal counsel, the Aboriginal Congress, other Aboriginal organizations, and the federal government.

TRC’s mission is to investigate and create the most complete history of the boarding school system in a collection.

Ry Moran, founding director of the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at the University of Manitoba, said that the organizations participating in the school have an obligation to “compile and produce all relevant records.”

Then hand over these records to NCTR, and NCTR will become their permanent repository.

Who keeps these records?

Most records related to boarding schools are held by the federal government and the churches that administer them.

Last month, after reports of unmarked graves were made public in Kamloops, British Columbia, memorials were set up across Canada for children who died in boarding schools. (Brian Morris/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Within the government, this will include the Canadian Library and Archives, which is the main federal archive.

But it also includes different government departments that may have played a role.

Have “A large number of government entities [that] Actually participated in the operation of the boarding school at many different touch points,” Moran said.

“So all these government departments really have to search their records.”

As for religious institutions, the Catholic Order “Mission of the Immaculate Conception” holds many records, which operates 48 boarding schools. But the Anglican Church and the United Church also opened schools.

Records can also be found in community archives and private collections. For example, just this month, the Royal Museum of British Columbia stated that it has about 250 boxes of materials, one third of which are related to schools run by the Catholic Order.

In addition, the provincial chief coroner and other agencies There will be records of deaths of boarding school children.

“So far, we only have records in Alberta and British Columbia,” said Raymond Frogner, NCTR’s director of archives.

“We have been negotiating with each province to obtain these, but we still haven’t reached an agreement.”

What information is in the record?

The records of the Catholic Church will include the so-called “Historical Code”, which is a daily newspaper on the operation of schools.

In general, these records are about daily operations, but may It also includes admission records, financial statements, human resources records, and teacher profiles.

Frogner said it is reminiscent of one of the “evil banality” often mentioned.

“It’s these very buzzing day-to-day operations of the school until you realize what is in operation.”

For example, records may reveal western names imposed by some children and the lack of quality of the lessons.

And there will be medical documents about the children-which record deaths and serious injuries.

“When we got these records, one of the things we actually tried to do was…recognize that these are not just school operations, but also records of children’s lives,” Frogner said.

“We can actually organize records around the students’ own lives.”

What challenges did you encounter when retrieving records?

At a recent parliamentary committee hearing, Martin Reiher, Assistant Deputy Minister of Royal and Indigenous Relations, stated that more than 5 million documents have been collected and handed over to NCTR.

On June 13, 2021, 215 lights were lit on the lawn outside the former Kamloops Indian Boarding School to commemorate the children who have never returned home. (Jonathan Hayward/Canada Press)

Frogner said that despite this, the government still refused to hand over other records. He said that NCTR is currently negotiating with the Canadian Library and Archives and the Royal Canadian Department of Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNAC) to obtain more records.

Jorge Barrera of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported at the time that in April this year, the Ontario Court of Appeals overturned a ruling won by the federal government last year to prevent the creation of detailed statistical reports. Reveal which boarding schools have the highest rates of abuse.

According to court records, the proposed report will provide a breakdown of boarding school compensation claims statistics, including the number and types of claims involved in each boarding school, as well as a broad profile of the survivors who filed the claims, among other categories.

As for the church, Moran said that the Anglican Church and the United Church are more proactive, and both can-more or less-coordinate their document production obligations through their own offices.

“They usually do try to operate as a collective unit and a cohesive whole.”

But Moran said that one of the challenges in retrieving records from the Catholic Church is that there is no unified central agency to handle it.

“So you really have to deal with all this [Catholic] Entities proceed one by one, case by case,” he said.

He said that many Catholic entities have their own independent legal counsel. “And those legal advisers don’t necessarily talk to each other.”

He said, too, many of these Catholic groups are smaller than before.

“So now you are actually dealing with very old or very small groups. Sometimes, you know, these archives are open one day a week and are made up of volunteers.”

Watch: priest.Ken Thorson talks about efforts to publish residential school records

Dedicated to the provincial priest. Ken Thorson told Power & Politics that the digitization of key historical boarding school documents will take months to complete. He added that Oblates, which runs 48 boarding schools, is seeking guidelines from privacy experts on the release of more documents. 9:49

Oblates has recent Firm Publish records related to these schools. But they also said that privacy laws may hinder the release of records containing personnel information-personally identifiable information, including people who work in boarding schools.

Why is recording important?

Frogner said that the most important reason for having these records is that they contain evidence of what happened.He quoted the United Nations Cione——Orentlicher principle, It sets international standards for the treatment of survivors of human rights violations.

He said that a community that has experienced collective trauma has the right to remember and to have justice.

“These are reflected in the records to ensure that the incident will not be forgotten,” he said.

Moran agreed, emphasizing that records play an important role in ensuring that similar widespread human rights violations do not occur again.

“So if we have a gap, if they say you can’t have a personnel file, then how do we know what the fault is in that system, and it might happen again in the future?

“How do we know if appropriate changes have been made to prevent this from happening again?



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