By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANN) – A judge in Saskatchewan is refusing to release a document outlining how the Catholic Church fulfilled Residential School reparations to First Nation people.
The alleged document details $25 million in “in-kind” services the Catholic Church provided as compensation for Residential school survivors — one of their obligations in the Residential School Settlement of 2006.
Court staff have confirmed the existence of the document and have said that it doesn’t appear to be sealed or under a publication ban.
However, the document has been in the custody of Justice Neil Gabrielson, the same judge who oversaw a 2015 case between Canada and the Catholic Church regarding the perceived existence of the Church’s compensation to First Nations.
The 2015 case was meant to force the Catholic Church to pay the full reparations, but ended up allowing the church to be released from its commitments instead.
The “in-kind” services document was a part of this case.
An unnamed court official has stated that the court has a supervisory role to court documents and that protocols are being followed before its release.
“The court will not change its procedures, hurry its processes or ignore fundamental responsibilities to meet your deadline,” said the court official.
An application must be submitted to the court and all parties involved in the 2015 case must be notified before the release.
Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul explained that the court documents are controlled by the presiding judge, saying, “Judicial independence is a fundamental tenet of our legal system.”
“You will have your answer in due course, and if you disagree, you may consider appealing to the Court of Appeal — the proper and usual process,” said Chief Justice Popescul.
The release of the 2015 document could take several months.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents 74 First Nations within Saskatchewan, has called for the resignation of Chief Justice Popescul for his support of keeping the document hidden.
“We are calling for the immediate resignation of Chief Justice Popescul for his failure to respect, honour and uphold our survivors and their descendants,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.
“The judicial process he cites to protect these important documents is the same racist systems and laws that upheld and enforced genocide upon our people. The same racist institution that forced our babies into these horrific schools, that killed and buried these children with no regard and even jailed First Nations parents for trying to stop them from attending. Justice Popescul had the opportunity to do the right thing,” said FSIN Chief Cameron
“We have long heard and believe stories from our people who state there is systemic judicial racism when it comes to presiding judges and it becomes obvious when you research some of their decisions.”
It should be noted that Chief Justice Popescul is the same judge who presided over the trial where a jury acquitted Gerald Stanley, the 56-year-old farmer who got away with shooting 22-year-old Indigenous man, Colten Boushie, in the back of the head in 2016.