Justice department lawyers have been accused of withholding documents that show a priest who worked at an infamous Indian residential school for nearly four decades was a serial sexual predator even as they persuaded an adjudicator to deny compensation to a former student who said the priest abused him.
The man, who was a student of St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont., is asking Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court to rehear his claim in light of the evidence, which was not presented at his closed-door hearing in July, 2014, before an adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process (IAP). That process was created under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to provide compensation quickly to former students who were physically or sexually abused at the institutions.
In a document requesting directions that was filed in court late last week, Fay Brunning, the lawyer for the man, who is identified as H-15019, is asking that the lawyers for the Department of Justice be removed from any new hearing granted to her client. She also asks that those lawyers be prevented from arguing in any other closed-door IAP hearing for former St. Anne’s students that the police and court records documenting abuse at the school are inadmissible.
In her request for directions – which includes allegations that have not been proved in court – Ms. Brunning asks Judge Perell to, among other things, look at her client’s situation as a test case to determine whether other former students may have been denied compensation, or given less compensation than they were due, because of the lack of disclosure.
The Mushkegowuk Council, which represents seven Northern Ontario First Nations, has passed a resolution calling on the courts to provide real justice for former students of St. Anne’s based on the now disclosed documentary record, or to allow a class-action suit against the Justice Department lawyers and the lawyers for the Catholic church, which ran the school.
“The story itself is so horrific of this serial sexual abuser who was allowed to abuse children for decades under the government watch,” said Charlie Angus, the NDP critic for indigenous affairs, who represents the region where St. Anne’s is located. “The government lawyers had the police evidence, suppressed it, went into these hearings and lied in these hearings and said this person who was abused by this pedophile lacked credibility.”
The claimant alleged in an IAP hearing that he was subjected to prolonged sexual abuse by a particular priest and that the abuse was facilitated by the assistant administrator of St. Anne’s. But the Justice Department lawyers argued in July, 2014, that the claimant’s story was not credible – even though at that time they had a report that, according to the request for directions, “confirms the priest was a serial sexual abuser” and that “many former students gave signed statements they had been abused by this assistant administrator.”
Nor were those documents presented at an IAP review in 2015 of the decision to deny the man compensation.
After lawyers for the former St. Anne’s students became aware that the government had police and court documents that could have backed up their clients’ compensation claims, Justice Perell ordered the government to disclose that material in January, 2014.
A spokeswoman for the Indigenous Affairs department said in an e-mail on Saturday that the government disclosed all 12,000 documents in its possession in June, 2014. In addition, she said, “Canada has revised and made available an updated School narrative and person-of-interest reports for St. Anne’s Residential School, in compliance with court direction. The updated narrative summarizes over 2,500 unique allegations of abuse and other wrongful acts.”
But the documents the government disclosed in June, 2014, were unsorted and heavily blacked out – so much so that Judge Perrell issued order in June 23, 2015, that they must be unredacted and summarized. The summarized and unredacted documents were disclosed in November of last year – far too late for use by claimant H-15019.
And the request for directions says no one at the IAP secretariat is ensuring that the documents that tell the narrative of what happened at St. Anne’s are being introduced during the adjudication hearings.