Federal official block residential school survivor group’s request to identify missing children

Representative image of Indian Residential School Twitter Handle Of Sarah

CMEDIA: A residential school survivor’s organization seeking access to 100-year-old records to identify four children who died at the Shingwauk and Wawanosh residential schools in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.  in the early 1900s was reportedly blocked by a federal official citing privacy laws.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller Irene Barbeau have since been informed of this incident through a letter written by the president of the alumni association, Irene Barbeau, 78 asking they use their authority to grant the group access. 

Meagan McLean, a departmental spokesperson for the two departments, said in an emailed statement that officials plan to reach out to the association to obtain “additional information,” because previous searches “had been unsuccessful.”

The department statement did not say where officials had previously searched.

The Indian status register is used to determine who qualifies as a status First Nation person. It was established in 1951 and centralized identifying information about every individual deemed by the government to have status under the Indian Act. 

It contains genealogical information on First Nations people dating back to the 1800s.

According to a 2003 internal department document outlining the workings of an early compensation system, the register as a potential primary source in determining who attended which residential school, was identified by the federal government.

Edward Sadowski, a researcher who has worked with the alumni association for decades reportedly said that the federal government had destroyed student lists for Shingwauk from the years 1907 to 1939.

Sadowski added the association has searched through the Anglican Archives, Library and Archives Canada, and department records using the Access to Information Act but to no avail. The only places left to look, he said, were the status register and other possible internal departmental databases.

The alumni association has so far identified 72 children who died at the two residential schools.

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