Although Residential Schools in British Columbia (BC) don’t have a time limit for bringing complaints, many people believe that they should still be investigated for what they believe to be systemic problems. The BC government continues to recommend that schools remain closed.
Should police investigate?
What do most of the people we spoke to think? The vast majority believe that as long as Residential Schools are closed there should be no longer-on-the-books complaints. Three people said yes. One person didn’t feel that closing schools was enough, and three others thought that schools should still be open and investigations ongoing.
We asked the people who believe that their complaint should be handled by police whether there should be an investigation. Of the 10 people who answered, 9 said yes. Four were skeptical of police investigations, saying that the problem was within schools.
One person said that police investigate when there is a suspicion, and if it’s being abused, police investigate when it’s more obvious. All but one of the people said that when police investigate there should be no time limit.
We also asked our panel of experts in this matter whether they thought schools should still be closed. Seven people said that as long as they are closed there should be no investigation. One person said that this should be a choice that schools should make for themselves. One person didn’t think that schools should be closed but that due to the trauma endured it was important that they remain closed.
When we spoke to people on our panel about this issue, one difference in our responses was whether those who were old enough to make a complaint should be consulted in the first place. Most of our panel of experts wanted to have the call on whether schools should be closed made by survivors, including the victim or witnesses. But, one person disagreed, saying that the call should be made by the RCMP.
Why do the Victims’ Bill of Rights insist that complaints to the provincial commissioner should result in an investigation?
We asked people why they think it is important that victims’ complaints should be investigated. Although people didn’t agree on all of our questions, the overwhelming majority said that the reason they think it is important is to ensure that the government takes these complaints seriously. People mostly agreed that the reasons were: it ensures that we report on complaints for which the government is responsible, it ensures that the government understands the extent of the problem, and it allows the government to take action.
How would this interview help the hearing panel better understand the issues in Residential Schools?
The interviews help the hearing panel hear first-hand from people affected by residential schools and make them feel that they are being heard. Interviews give the panel a chance to see the places where things went wrong and where institutions have been weakened by some of the most difficult, emotional, and difficult-to-break patterns that these survivors have experienced.
How many people do you think would identify themselves as a Residential School survivor?
The committee of experts does not have a specific figure in order to consider measures in light of the information that we have now. We have not completed our work to establish a range of numbers as there is a lot of discussion about these things, not least of which is whether we should actually ask people on this committee which schools they were at.
How are the testimonies gathered?
In the same way that the process for all the other meetings with Survivors’ Advisory Council members and heard victims’ families takes place. Survivors are interviewed at their homes and at day visits to schools. We wanted to make sure that every investigator was familiar with what went on in these schools and whether the Survivors heard good and bad stories.
How much does this all cost?
We haven’t had a chance to do the cost analysis yet, but we are working with feedback and expecting to share it with the Hearing Panel.
What will the Criminal Code process consist of?
If the witnesses give their account and then they sign a declaration, that would also be the case. Then we take that information and compile it together with the information from the claimants with mental or physical injuries that they have sustained.
How will the number of investigations over the past four decades be accounted for?
As part of the process of evaluating the incidents, it’s important to check each time the RCMP investigated whether there was anything that was overlooked. For example, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) wanted to see, if we could get records, how many times did the RCMP actually investigate a complaint about a teacher molesting a student?
How do you see this process?
The process is extremely complex. Part of the challenge is that it is not just survivors’ testimonies that are being reviewed. The Residential Schools Settlement Agreement has a lot of detail