POLITICS
09/08/2014 08:09 EDT | Updated 11/08/2014 05:59 EST

Residential school survivors vexed by 'blacked-out' documents

After a long court fight with the federal government, residential school survivors on the James Bay Coast now have access to police and court records of abuse at St. Anne's School in Fort Albany.

But survivors say the documents are useless because much of the information they contain has been blacked out.

Former St. Anne's students were hoping to use the records as part of ongoing claims for compensation.

Hundreds of First Nations children from remote James Bay communities were sent to St. Anne's from 1904 to 1976.

Survivors like Edmund Metatawabin said there was severe abuse at the school, including children being forced to eat their own vomit.

“Everything is blacked out,” he said about the documents. “The whole page is blacked out.”

In the 1990s the OPP investigated claims of abuse at St. Anne's. They even laid charges and there were some convictions of former staff at the school.

However, all of the documentation from those investigations and cases has been kept private since.

Earlier this year, an Ontario court ruled the federal government did have a duty to hand over all of the files related to abuse St. Anne's to the Independent Assessment Process, the body adjudicating abuse claims.

Metatawabin said he doesn't believe the redactions are in the spirit of that court ruling.

“Why are they so insistent on hiding these documents?”

Some 12,000 records related to St. Anne's were provided to lawyers for former students last month.

But Timmins-James Bay MP Charie Angus said the names of the perpetrators and the witnesses have been blacked out.

“How can that be in keeping with the obligations of the federal government to ensure fair hearings?”

Angus noted the government was “forced to turn all of the documents over and, at the last minute, they dumped all the documents on the lawyers for the survivors.”

Angus has written to Justice Minister Peter Mackay, asking him to intervene.

“Just because the federal government is the defendant doesn't mean it can ignore the law of Canada.”

The Minister's office says it’s reviewing the situation.