Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Probe into residential schools records hits snag

BY MARK KENNEDY, POSTMEDIA NEWS

The federal government, after months of delay, is hiring a firm to sort through millions of documents at Library and Archives Canada so they can be passed on to the commission probing the aboriginal residential school saga.

But the executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Kimberly Murray, said Tuesday she is worried the records will trickle in and arrive too late to be used for the commission's report.

That multivolume report is being written and will be released by June 2015, but must be finished months before then so it can be translated and edited.

"They know we have to do all that," a frustrated Murray said of the government. "They know it takes a year to do all that."

Also, she fears the government has decided to limit the scope of material it will search in government archives, potentially overlooking some key material. The TRC's mandate says its work must include compiling a complete "historical record" of the residential schools' "system and legacy."

But the government appears to be adopting a more narrow approach, saying it will hire a company to dig out documents pertaining to "the operation and funding of the schools."

Former prime minister Paul Martin said Tuesday the government's approach is unacceptable.

"At a time when the nation as a whole is coming to grips with what happened in residential schools, for the government to say that they are essentially going to continue to mask the history that we are entitled to know is just wrong."

"Our government remains committed to achieving a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian Residential Schools," said Erica Meekes, a spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt.

"That is why the prime minister made a historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008 and why we have disclosed over 4.2 million documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

The new concerns are being expressed after the government posted a "request for proposal" last week seeking bids from companies that want the contract at the archives. The research is expected to cost $14 million.

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