Truth Commission: Ottawa interference? LaForme concerned.
"We have to make sure that our $58-million budget isn't eaten up and virtually clawed back by the government of Canada," he said.
Worry over Ottawa interference delays residential schools truth commission
TORONTO — The head of a commission set up to help exorcise the demons that haunt the aboriginal survivors of Canada's residential school system is warning that federal government control over spending and administration could threaten the integrity of his mandate.
In an interview, Justice Harry LaForme said political or bureaucratic interference could compromise his fledgling Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the concerns are delaying its startup.
The Ontario Court of Appeal justice said the panel cannot allow itself to be "shackled" by bureaucratic requirements, and that the commissioners, not government, must be able to decide how to spend their $58-million budget.
"It's an issue that's very important," LaForme told The Canadian Press.
"If we've got to answer for the mandate, then we've got to have control of the mandate."
LaForme said it came as "a surprise" to discover the feds had created a secretariat as a government department staffed by civil servants reporting to the minister of Indian Affairs, instead of allowing the commission to set up its own office.
The government is also insisting it appoint the secretariat's executive director as part of its desire to ensure financial accountability.
"There is the potential for this friction with our independence," LaForme said.
LaForme called it imperative the panel, set up June 1 as part of a $1.9-billion class-action settlement, not be seen as an arm of government. He noted that part of its five-year task is to encourage former students and others affected by the tragic legacy to share their experiences in a culturally appropriate and safe manner.