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An Ontario court has been asked by former students at a residential school to grant them access to an OPP investigation report the Harper government is refusing to release. The former students of the Albany, Ont., school say the document is needed in their claims for compensation against the government for physical and sexual abuse at the Catholic-run school.

The St. Anne's residential school abuses are ranked as amongst the most egregious examples of harm to native children forced into residential schools. Several school officials were convicted following the 1990s investigation, which found evidence of sexual and physical abuse, including shocking children in a homemade electric chair.

Ottawa petitioned for and obtained the OPP report in 2003 while battling litigation by survivors, on the basis it needed the information before proceeding to trial. It then settled class-action suits by establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and an independent assessment route to adjudicate claims by those physically or sexually abused.

Police reports are not public documents. Information gathered may or may not end in charges. Reports can contain details on other victims or confidential informers and investigative techniques better kept out of the hands of criminals.

Ottawa says it is up to the OPP to release the report. The court may agree, but it should recognize the relevance of the report to the victims' claims. It was released previously, for the government, and should be done so again, redacted to protect the identity of other victims or for informants.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2013 A14

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