06/01/2015 07:34 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT

B.C. Grand Chief Says Federal Government Destroyed Land-Claim Emails

The allegations come days after a former government worker claimed he was told to delete emails connected to the Highway of Tears investigation.


VICTORIA - A federal government bureaucrat ordered the destruction of legal opinions over the potential of First Nations in British Columbia to reach land-claim agreements, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs claims.

The allegations come days after former B.C. government worker Tim Duncan alleged he was told to delete emails connected to the Highway of Tears investigation into murdered and missing women that were part of a Freedom of Information request.

Union Grand Chief Stewart Phillip alleged a federal access to information request revealed a director with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada ordered the destruction of the legal opinions.

Phillip said the union filed a formal complaint with the Office of the information Commissioner to investigate the destruction of the emails.

The group's letter, dated May 22 and addressed to the Office of the Information Commissioner in Gatineau, Que., stated a one-page document "seems to indicate that relevant documents had been destroyed."

The letter said the union was concerned about the document because it believed under Canada's Access to Information law, it was entitled to fair access with limited exemptions from release of information.

The email that raised the concerns of the union stated: "The meeting is set up with the below agenda. However, ... there were no documents to present as they were all destroyed back when this was first discussed, per the request of Audrey Stewart."

Phillip said Stewart was the director general of the specific claims branch from 2001 to 2007.

"We have reviewed the regulations that govern the deletion of government correspondence and we do not feel that the materials referred to here fall within the range of permitted destruction of documents," stated the letter.

Neither the Information Commissioner of Canada nor a spokesperson at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada were immediately available for comment.

B.C.'s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has launched an investigation into the provincial allegations that were filed under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he expects his office staff to follow the law completely when it comes to handling correspondence relating to freedom of information requests. The staff member within Stone's office who deleted the emails has been suspended with pay.


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