Feds’ special interlocutor falls short of delivering justice, says Nunavut MP

Nunatsiaq News [Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada]

August 14, 2021

By Sarah Rogers

‘The most important step is to ensure that the special interlocutor gets truth and justice for residential school survivors’

Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq said the federal government’s recent appointment of a new liaison to work with Indigenous groups on residential school healing is “a major climb down” from the NDP’s call for a criminal probe.

In July, the federal New Democrats asked Ottawa to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate potential crimes committed against Indigenous people at residential schools, and their alleged perpetrators.

The demand came after weeks of revelations about unmarked graves at residential school sites throughout the country.

On Aug. 10, Lametti announced the government’s plan to appoint a “special interlocutor,” whose job it would be to work with Indigenous communities and governments “to identify needed measures and make recommendations relating to federal laws, regulations, policies and practices surrounding unmarked and undocumented graves and burial sites at residential schools.”

That announcement was part of a wider investment of $321 million towards a range of initiatives related to residential school searches and support for Indigenous communities doing the work.

The move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to call a September election.

“New Democrats will watch the roll out of these promises very closely,” Qaqqaq said in an email to Nunatsiaq News on Friday.

“We have learned that Liberal promises often fall very short of the need for justice. Indigenous people in Canada deserve real justice, not just more words and symbolic gestures.”

Qaqqaq also made a specific request to federal Justice Minister David Lametti in July to bring a former Catholic priest to justice. Rev. Johannes Rivoire was one accused of sexually assaulting Inuit residential school students and children while he worked in Nunavut communities in the 1960s.

The Justice department has not indicated if it would revisit that file.

“The most important step is to ensure that the special interlocutor gets truth and justice for residential school survivors,” Qaqqaq said.

“This means investigating the graves at former residential schools, prosecuting living abusers, and holding institutions who were complicit accountable.”