Editor’s note: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers.
New Democrat MPs Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and Charlie Angus are calling on Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate crimes against Indigenous children in residential schools and other institutions.
Arguing that there’s been a lack of action to date, such as fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and lack of adequate compensation from the Indian Residential School Settlement, the pair of NDP parliamentarians insist that international observers should be part of the mandate.
“This is a policy of genocide against a people and we have to keep in context of abuses in the international court system,” said Angus, who represents the Ontario riding of Timmins—James Bay, during a July 8 news conference in Ottawa.
As communities continue to find unmarked mass graves at residential school grounds in Canada, the two politicians said they do not trust the Justice department to be part of any future investigations into this matter.
“How can the perpetrator of mass crimes investigate themselves?” Qaqqaq asked. “What would we say if this was happening in another country, in a non-Indigenous community? Many genocides across the world have been investigated and the perpetrators have been tried for their crimes. It’s time to treat this as a crime of genocide that continues to happen here in Canada today.”
Angus said the federal government has protected participants of the residential school system before, citing the St. Anne’s Residential School trial in Ontario as one such case.
“They failed to disclose they were sitting on a persons of interest (POI) report — a POI that was 2,472 pages of rape and torture of innocent children,” said Angus. “…the government suppressed police and court records of abuse and torture, and the blacked out the names of so many perpetrators while the survivors were deliberately denied justice.”
Qaqqaq opened the press conference by speaking about Johannes Rivoire, one of multiple alleged pedophile priests who held positions of power in the residential school system in various communities in Nunavut and the NWT.
“Attorney General David Lametti and the Liberal Government are doing nothing to bring (Rivoire) to justice,” said Qaqqaq, who added that Rivoire is accused of raping children in the Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Day School in Chesterfield Inlet.
“The abuse at his hands has caused generations of trauma,” Qaqqaq said. “The Government of Nunavut demanded that they bring him to justice but Lametti had refused. Instead of facing justice for his (alleged) crimes, Rivoire is living a luxurious retirement in a home for priests in Strasbourg, France and the federal institution is doing nothing about it.”
The legacy of residential schools is plain and clear for Inuit and all Indigenous people, with higher rates of child sexual abuse, alcohol abuse and suicide, said Qaqqaq.
“We see suicide, unfortunately, as the normality in Nunavut. I have many friends and family I have lost or have attempted (to take their own lives). We all have in Nunavut — that is from colonization, that is from residential schools and attempted genocide. That is from people not learning love as parents and teach their children love. Can you imagine communities filled without love because the children were taken away for education?”
Prime Minsister Justin Trudeau has called on the Catholic Church to turn over documents relating to residential schools. While that’s a step in the right direction, according to Angus, he said the Government of Canada has its own responsiblity and documents of its own to make public, amounting to an ongoing cover up.
“We as the (NDP) are calling for this cover up to end… the reality is the federal government has their own long list, a detailed list of the criminals and their crimes,” Angus contended.
Reconciliation cannot move forward until the participants of the residential school system are brought to trial for their crimes, they say.
“There cannot be reconciliation without truth, there cannot be reconciliation without justice,” said Qaqqaq, “It’s time for Canada to face the truth.”