MPs call for independent investigation into crimes committed against Indigenous people

·3 min read

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus and Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq are calling for an independent investigation into reports of crimes committed against Indigenous peoples.

During a press conference today held in Ottawa, Angus and Qaqqaq called on Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti to appoint a fully funded special prosecutor to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation into residential schools, day schools, sanatoriums and other places where Indigenous people have faced violence and abuse.

“It would be the power of the special prosecutor to have access to all the documents, all the evidence, including all the evidence that’s under settlement privilege right now, to identify where are the perpetrators, those who are still alive, to identify people who were involved in this and have the power to name names and to take this to court," Angus said.

The MPs said the federal government cannot be trusted to do the investigation without an independent body and international observers.

“We’ve seen it with the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, we’ve seen it with St. Anne’s survivors,” Angus said.

Angus and Qaqqaq showed up at the conference holding the portraits of two Oblate priests. One was Father Arthur Lavoie who was a priest at St. Anne’s residential school. Another was Father Johannes Rivoire who was accused of sexually abusing Inuit children and is now living in France.

There cannot be reconciliation without truth and justice, Qaqqaq said.

“Enough is enough. Indigenous people need truth and justice. Not only about individual abusers like Rivoire but of all genocidal residential school systems that the churches and the federal institution used in their attempts to destroy us and take our lands,” she said.

The MPs said they want the special prosecutor to have the mandate to seek advice and guidance from the International Criminal Court.

“The prosecutor must have the right to demand all relevant documents, the codex historicus of each church and religious order, the school records, the personnel files held by the relevant church institutions and various orders,” Angus said. “The prosecutor must have the right to access the names and records of every criminal perpetrator that Canada has on file under litigation privilege as well as any relevant documents and policies that protected these men and allowed them to carry out their crimes.”

The MPs also want the special prosecutor to have the right to make the information public and to have the ability to access the documents through subpoena if necessary.

“Privacy and protection belong to the survivors, to the victims, to the people who had decency and courage to come forward. It doesn’t apply to protect the perpetrators,” Angus said. “There has to be some accountability.”

In regard to the unmarked graves, the MPs called on the federal government to increase the budget and resources to do a proper forensic investigation at the sites, to track the file histories, and ensure the bodies are properly exhumed and returned to their families and communities with dignity. These actions must be taken under the authority and oversight of the affected indigenous communities, Angus said.

“We’re done waiting, we’re done asking,” Angus said. “To the Prime Minister: do it. Send a clear message that you take these crimes against humanity seriously.”

A 24-hour residential school crisis line offering support to former students and their families is available at 1-866-925-4419.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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