Fontaine v Canada (AG), 2020 ONCA 540

The Court of Appeal declined a request to stay the destruction of the SADRE database used to manage Independent Assessment Process claims under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement pending an appeal. All parties consented to an order for an expedited appeal and the preservation of the database until December 30, 2020, which was ordered on a schedule that would make the stay unnecessary.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

This motion for a stay arises in the context of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement [“IRSSA”]. The IRSSA resulted in the establishment of the Independent Assessment Process [“IAP”], under which former students who suffered physical, sexual, or psychological abuse could claim compensation. The IAP is administered by the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat [the “Secretariat”] under the direction of the Chief Adjudicator. Over 38,000 claims have been processed in the IAP and over $3 billion disbursed to former students. The Secretariat uses a database known as SADRE to case-manage the IAP claims. The IAP is coming to an end, and the Secretariat is to be closed and all claims adjudicated by March 31, 2021.

The Chief Adjudicator sought directions on the disposition of certain records [“Non-Claim Records”] held by the Secretariat. He made a proposal to archive most of them with the Appellant, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation [“NCTR”]. Its mandate under the IRSSA is to archive and store records collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other records relating to what were known as Indian Residential Schools. This proposal was supported by the Appellant and others, but not by the Respondent, the Attorney General of Canada [“Canada”]. The proposal was rejected on January 20, 2020, and Canada was instead directed to bring a Request for Directions [“RFD”] for court approval of a proposal for the archiving of copies of the Non-Claim Records with the Appellant subject to certain delineated principles.

“Final Static Reports” were to be excluded from the Non-Claim Records to be archived, as the generation of such reports would contravene the orders made in Fontaine v Canada (AG), 2014 ONSC 4585. Final Static Reports are new reports generated from the SADRE database used by the Secretariat and reflect final process and outcome data of the 38,000 IAP claims administered under the IAP. Final Static Reports include tables that represent a fixed extract from SADRE at the end of the IAP. It was determined that the reliability and soundness of the models is doubtful without more information and truth and reconciliation would not be advanced, therefore the Final Static Reports should not be archived with the Appellant and not to be included in the IAP Final Report.

A number of orders have been made by the supervising courts in the course of the administration of the IRSSA. Three that are the subject matter of the stay motion have ordered that the SADRE database be destroyed. These courts have also issued various sunset orders governing the orderly closure of the IAP claims process, the expiry of the Chief Adjudicator’s mandate, and the wind-up of the Secretariat. The process to effect the destruction of SADRE could begin on December 31, 2020 and the Secretariat itself is to close on March 31, 2021.

In a nutshell, the Appellant’s primary position on appeal is that invaluable information will be permanently lost if the Final Static Reports are destroyed. However, Canada’s position is that the Appellant’s request to halt the destruction of SADRE is non-justiciable, a collateral attack on the In Rem order already made, and amounts to re-litigation.

The overarching consideration is whether the interests of justice call for a stay (Zafar v Saiyid, 2017 ONCA 919; Longley v Canada (AG), 2007 ONCA 149). In this case, a stay is declined. The parties all consent to an order for an expedited appeal and the orders that the Appellant seeks to stay preserve the SADRE database until December 30, 2020. As a result, a stay is unnecessary if an expedite order is granted and the appeal is heard by the end of October or early November and decided before the end of the year. Therefore, it is reasonable to expedite the Appellant’s appeal.

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