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PMO says it will do all it can to ensure all residential school records are provided

More than four million documents provided to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses for a moment as he listens to Chief Rosanne Casimir as she speaks at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Prime Minister’s Office says “to the best of our knowledge,” it has provided all residential school records to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The PMO says in a written statement that it has provided more than four million documents to the centre, and if all the records haven’t been supplied, “we will do everything we can” to make sure all the parties of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement have them.

Earlier this week, the national centre in Winnipeg issued a statement saying it’s still waiting for Ottawa to provide documents used in the assessment process for compensation claims stemming from abuse at the institutions, despite comments from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that all federal records had been turned over.

Trudeau told a gathering on Monday of Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc leaders, residential school survivors and their families in Kamloops, B.C., that the federal government had, “in our understanding,” already provided all of its records to the centre and it would continue looking to make sure no further records remained.

The centre says it is also missing records from Library and Archives Canada and it has been negotiating with the government about access to records since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created in 2015, including records to be generated from the database used in the claims resolution process.

The visit to Kamloops was Trudeau’s first since the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Nation announced in May that more than 200 unmarked graves had been located at the site of the former residential institution there. Since then, numerous Indigenous nations have reported locating unmarked graves at former residential schools with the same ground-penetrating radar technology used in Kamloops.

A letter sent to the prime minister on Thursday by NDP MPs Niki Ashton and Leah Gazan urged the prime minister to immediately provide the centre with all federal records, saying that would be “a small step towards true justice.”

“In light of the recovery of children at residential institutions, if there were ever a time in history where it is critical that we work together to ensure true justice is realized, it is now,” the letter says.

“Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians deserve to have a true account of the magnitude of crimes committed by Canada against Indigenous Peoples as a result of the residential school system.”

—The Canadian Press

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