Ottawa to release millions of residential school records

Last week's Ontario Superior Court decision ordering the federal government to track down and turn over millions of residential school records could have far-reaching impacts, especially in the Yukon.

Last week’s Ontario Superior Court decision ordering the federal government to track down and turn over millions of residential school records could have far-reaching impacts, especially in the Yukon.

The decision may allow many of the territory’s First Nations people to apply for residential school compensation funding and could overturn rejections of some previous applications, said Ruth Massie, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

“I think this court decision is extremely important, as we do have some citizens in the Yukon who were residential school attendees and they are not being recognized,” said Massie.

Having access to government records will make it easier for victims of the infamous school system to apply for compensation, especially in cases where they attended day schools.

The deadline to apply for compensation has already passed, but Massie said she hopes it will be extended to allow people who thought they were ineligible to reapply. Even if it isn’t, however, she said that anyone who submitted their application on time but had it denied could mount an appeal and be considered for compensation.

“I’m surprised it hasn’t already gone to court yet. I do know and have been in contact with several students that made applications. Their applications are there, they were just denied. They’ll be able to overturn those decisions now,” said Massie.

Massie said she was unsure exactly how many residential school survivors could be affected by the court decision, but that there were at least three schools in the Yukon with students who weren’t previously considered for compensation. That’s because they were day schools, even though they were still run under the jurisdiction of Indian Affairs.

“There’s no recognition of the schools because of the missing records. Once this information is released, it will expose that,” said Massie.

She said she suspects the government was reluctant to release the documents because they may contain controversial information about the kinds of abuses that took place.

“If they wrote down any disciplinary action, it would be in those records as well,” she said.

At last month’s hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in Whitehorse, many survivors testified to the abuses they suffered and spoke about the continued damage and pain of having their applications denied because they couldn’t prove where they went to school.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled on Jan. 30 that the federal government must comb through its archives and turn over to the TRC millions of records relating to the government-run system of forced assimilation that took First Nations children away from their homes. In some cases, physical and sexual abuse at the schools was rampant.

Contact Jesse Winter at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read