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Years of mounting frustration over access to government records has prompted the commission of inquiry into Canada's residential school system to turn to the courts for help, The Canadian Press has learned.
In court filings, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission accuses Ottawa of stymying requests for documents the inquiry says are vital to its core mandate: "delivery on truth, reconciliation and ultimately healing."
Documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice show the commission worries that Ottawa's alleged intransigence will make it impossible to complete its work as required by July 1, 2014 and within budget.
"If the parties, through incompetence, delays or deliberate stonewalling (or a combination thereof) sabotage the work of the commission, then Canadians are certain to forget (and never fully learn) what has happened," the commission's factum states.
The application asks the court to clarify the government's obligations under a settlement with victims of the Indian residential school system that set up the commission led by Justice Murray Sinclair.
"The commission is taking this step very reluctantly and with a sense that it has been left with no alternative," Sinclair said in a statement.
Under the agreement, the government of Canada and churches are obliged to provide all "relevant documents in their possession or control" to the commission.
Court filings show years of government squabbling over the word "relevant."