By: John Bell
The Harper government has done everything possible to deny justice to the victims of the racist Residential School program. Begun even before confederation, the program was designed to forcibly assimilate First Nations children, and has been accurately described cultural genocide.
Survivors of the St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario, have been fighting for years for the release of the results of an Ontario Provincial Police investigation into sexual and physical abuse. Five school employees were jailed as a result of the investigation, which discovered among other things a home-made electric chair used to torture the children into submission.
When survivors applied for compensation they asked for the OPP files. For six years the Department of Aboriginal Affairs denied it had the reports. They lied.
In December the government will argue before an Ontario Superior Court that it should not have to disclose the documents, which it has had all along. This is part of a strategy of delay and denial that proves that Stephen Harper’s 2008 “apology” for the colonialist policies was hypocrisy. “I remember the elders saying the words came out of his mouth but the eyes told a different story,” said Edmund Metatawabin, former Chief of Fort Francis First Nation.
In 2008 the federal government was ordered to release all documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to the victims and their families. It has done everything possible to delay the process.
Information disclosed thus far shows First Nations children were subjected to medical experiments–denied nutrition so the effects of vitamin deficiency could be studied. Experts predict that even worse horrors will be revealed if the rest of the documents ever see the light of day.
Under Harper, Aboriginal Affairs spends more money on litigation than any other government department, almost double the closest competitor. Last year alone the legal bill was over $106 million–money spent to deny justice and self-determination for First Nations.