THE federal government should waste no more time or money by appealing an Ontario judge’s ruling that it must provide all its documents that are relevant to the Canada’s inquiry into Indian Residential Schools. Instead, a federal committee should be struck to work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to narrow, as best it can, the breadth of research required to dig out archived records touching on the history of residential schools.
The first schools operated under the federal policy opened in the 1880s and the last closed in 1996. Many millions of documents would have been produced over those years; the commission believes some 23 federal departments and agencies are involved. Ottawa did not believe it was compelled to produce the records, but this week Ontario Superior Court Justice Stephen Gouge said the language of the 2006 settlement setting up the commission clearly puts an unqualified obligation on Ottawa.
This is a victory for Canadians. The commission is tasked with compiling a complete and permanent record of the residential school legacy. Much of what is known now comes from easily accessed documents and the oral accounts mainly from former students.
The fuller story remains to be told and government documents are critical to that, and to the centre where the complete record is to be filed as a national trove. A government that would deny Canadians the ability to review their history obstructs the difficult reconciliation so necessary to a better, wiser Canada.