10/06/2017 05:58 EDT | Updated 10/06/2017 06:02 EDT

Residential school records documenting abuses can be destroyed: Supreme Court

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada says records detailing the abuse of former residential school students can eventually be destroyed.

The unanimous high court ruling today brings clarity to an issue that pitted the privacy of victims against the importance of documenting a dark chapter in Canada's relations with Indigenous Peoples.

Students provided accounts of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as part of an independent assessment process to provide compensation — a program that flowed from a major 2006 settlement agreement.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that said the material should be destroyed after 15 years, though individuals could agree to have their stories preserved at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.

The federal government unsuccessfully argued the documentary record must be fully preserved to ensure what happened at the residential schools is never forgotten.

It said federal laws governing access to information, privacy and archives provide the proper balance for safeguarding the records of historical value while protecting individual privacy and confidentiality.