Michael Swinwood, the lawyer for the Lac La Ronge Indian band. Photo by Manfred Joehnck

A lawyer representing Lac la Ronge Indian Band is confident heading into a Timber Bay Children’s Home court battle.

An application for the Timber Bay school (TBCH) to be added as an institution during the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) process was denied in 2013 at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon, and Lac la Ronge Indian Band lawyer Michael Swinwood appealed that decision.

The 2013 ruling by Justice Gabrielson found that “nothing in the record indicates that there was any relationship of responsibility or control between Canada and TBCH.”

Among the IRSSA qualifications is that “Canada was jointly or solely responsible for the operation of TBCH or the care of the children resident there.”

Part of the issue that made it difficult to prove this responsibility, Swinwood said, is a fire on Lac La Ronge that destroyed education records.

“There’s no doubt in our mind that Timber Bay was treated just like Prince Albert” which qualified under the IRRSSA process he said, adding “it’s just that the paper trail wasn’t the same.”

Three years after the initial ruling, Swinwood said he feels he’s uncovered enough documents to show the federal government did have control over what happened within that school’s walls.

“We feel that we found enough that demonstrates the control that the federal government had in relation to Timber Bay, specifically to the education councillor that was employed by the Department of Indian Affairs and their relationship to the education councillor at Lac la Ronge itself,” he said.

It wasn’t an easy path though. Swinwood said he received some further documentation from the federal government and also hired a firm that does research at public archives, but was unable to find certain federal documents that the Truth and Reconciliation also struggled to get ahold of.

With the appeal hearing already delayed from last December at Swinwood’s request, he said they “just have to deal with what’s right in front of us.”

In 2013, Justice Gabrielson zoned in on the role LLRIB played, saying that testimony showed “LLRIB performed the primary gatekeeper role,” not the federal government.

The TBCH operated between 1952 and 1992.

The appeal hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on September 27 at Regina’s Court of Appeal. Decisions on whether to admit the new evidence Swinwood has gathered will be made at that time as well.