By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA–Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says he sees no “issue” in his government’s handling of residential school documents and blames the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for creating the controversy that’s slowing things down.
In an appearance Monday before the Commons Aboriginal affairs committee, Duncan said the TRC will get all the documents they need by next summer.
“I fail to see the issue with their documents” said Duncan. “Federally, I think we are in pretty good shape.”
Duncan placed the blame for the controversy at the feet of TRC Chair Murray Sinclair. Duncan said he’s received positive signals from Sinclair’s co-commissioners, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson.
“It is only in Justice Sinclair that we are getting this kind of response,” said Duncan. “I don’t know what he is doing. I would like to think we can move on with the process.”
The TRC alleges in court documents that the Harper government is refusing to release millions of documents and files. The TRC claims some of the documents Ottawa is refusing to hand over include RCMP files and documents on missing children and grave sites at residential schools.
Aboriginal Affairs deputy minister Michael Wernick, who also appeared before the committee, said the TRC would get all residential school records, including RCMP files. Wernick said the TRC would also get documents ranging up to the last existing school which shut down in 1996 and some documents around the conclusion of the multi-billion dollar residential school settlement.
Wernick said the TRC has already received over a million documents.
Wernick said the government, however, is drawing a line around documents from the negotiations leading to the court settlement and the private files of residential school survivors seeking compensation.
“We have a legitimate disagreement about the relevance of documents from the 2005 negotiations,” said Wernick. “We simply disagree they need to see all the applications and adjudications that are now under way.”
APTN National News has learned that the TRC is seeking cabinet documents from the Paul Martin government years on the eventual residential school settlement.
The RCMP was involved in snatching children from their homes and forcing them to attend residential schools. The TRC believes the RCMP also has criminal complaints against residential schools and staff over abuse.