The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents Saskatchewan’s first nations, is demanding the resignation of one of the province’s top judges after he did not immediately release a housing school dossier.
FSIN chief Bobby Cameron says the court’s position is typical of the institutional racism that First Nations people face in the justice system. The refusal to hand over the documents immediately, he said, is to traumatize survivors.
Cameron said Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul needs to resign immediately.
“This is a perfect example of the systemic racism we face every day, which is deeply rooted and rooted in Canadian institutions such as the justice system,” Cameron said.
CBC News recently learned that a file inside the Regina courthouse could show whether the Catholic Church kept its promises to school survivors. The file includes a $ 25 million explanation in “in-kind services” that the church allegedly provides to survivors.
CBC News requested a copy of this file.
A court official refused to release the case instead of giving it to justice Neil Gabrielson, the original judge from the case, which ended in 2015.
Gabrielson also refused to produce it immediately. He said an application must be submitted and all parties notified.
CBC News requested that Popescul immediately release the documents, but he said he was unable to do so.
Popescul was not available for an interview to discuss FSIN’s allegations of systemic racism in court on Tuesday.
In a letter sent to CBC News by an official last week, Popescul said the court “has a supervisory role over court records” and that the proper procedure is being followed.
“The court will not change its procedures, hurry to process or ignore basic liability to meet your deadline,” the letter reads.
Popescul said access to a court exhibition was “controlled by the presiding judge” and that it would be inappropriate to interfere now that Gabrielson has made his decision.
“Legal independence is a fundamental principle of our legal system,” the Supreme Court wrote.
“You get your answer over time, and if you disagree, you can consider appealing to the Court of Appeal – the right and usual process.”
This process could take months and will force elderly survivors to wait for a response, said legal experts with extensive knowledge of the compensation agreement. They say this is a public document and should be produced immediately.
They include Mayo Moran, a former dean of the University of Toronto’s law school, former Truth and Reconciliation Commission attorney general Thomas McMahon and Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former Saskatchewan district judge and director of the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School of History and Vancouver Dialogue Center.
“Catholic observance of the settlement agreement cannot be a secret kept from survivors. It would violate the spirit and intent of the settlement agreement, truth and reconciliation,” McMahon said last week.
Cameron and others agree. They say information is the property of the survivors. He said Popescul “had the opportunity to do the right thing”, but failed.
“These documents belong to the people who trust … the court process to be fair and accountable. Their trauma is lifelong and is felt every day by the survivors and their communities,” he said.
“The legal process he cites to protect these important documents is the same racist systems and laws that perpetuated and enforced the genocide of our people. The same racist institution that forced our babies into these horrific schools that killed and buried these children without regard to and even imprisoned First Nations parents for trying to prevent them from participating. “
Housing school survivor AJ Felix, an elder of Sturgeon Lake First Nation, said this week that the time for patience is over. He is considering a trip to the Regina courthouse with other survivors to demand documents from the Catholic Church in person.
“We did not see it and no one is showing it to us,” Felix said. “We have a right to know what the church is saying to protect its integrity and concealment.”
Support is available to anyone affected by their experience in residential schools and those triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian housing school crisis line has been set up to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
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