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by Drew Fossum

 

The RCMP had limited knowledge of the abuses at residential schools, according to a recent report.

 

The report, released on  Oct. 29 at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission event in Halifax, describes the RCMP’s role  as that of “responsive truant officer.”  Officers were not directly involved with school activities but acted on the request of Indian Agents to enforce compliance with the Indian Act, the report stated.

 

 Acting on requests from Indian agents, RCMP officers would issue fines for non-compliance or remove children from their families and put them in the control of agents or church officials. The RCMP maintains there was no stated method for  returning  the children to the schools. Officersacted on a case-by-case basis.

 

The report found that Indian agents and school authorities often threatened families with police action, however the RCMP’s direct interaction with First Nations people was limited – meaning there were few opportunities for victims to report abuse.

 

 As well, the students’ “lack of trust for authority figures” meant abuses went unreported and unknown outside the institutions. .

 

Blair Stonechild, a professor at First Nation’s University of Canada, attended a residential school at

Lebret, Sask. His did not see any RCMP officers while a student, something he attributes to the era when he attended.

 

 They were “doing away with the old Indian agent system and it (RCMP involvement) was really a part of the Indian agent system,” he said.

 

He added that under the Indian Act “the Indian Agent basically had full authority over anybody on the reserve. They had the right to do anything under the act which included the ability to apprehend children.”

 

Other Vvictims of residential school abuse have said they believe the RCMP should have known about abuses and are guilty of not following up on complaints about the abuses.

 

However, a spokesperson for the RCMP said there have been no formal complaints about the report as of Monday afternoon.