In this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 file image the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

In this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 file image the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

ICC Turns Down Lawyers’ Request To Investigate Residential Schools

ICC rejected request to open a preliminary investigation that’s a prerequisite to filing charges

  • Nov. 20, 2021 9:30 a.m.

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Red Deer-based lawyer who helped bring forward a request for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Government of Canada and Catholic Church’s roles in the residential school system says the court has turned it down.

Andrew Phypers, one of a dozen lawyers who wrote the ICC requesting an investigation, told APTN News that the ICC prosecutors rejected their request to open a preliminary investigation that’s a prerequisite to filing charges.

“Part of their reasoning was that they felt they were prevented as the deaths occurred before Canada ratified the crimes against humanity law,” said Phypers.

On June 3, the group of lawyers put forward their request pro bono, arguing that Canadian police cannot be trusted to fairly investigate these crimes.

“The fact is, the government of Canada, including the RCMP and including the Vatican, including the churches, all have an invested interest in the truth not coming out,” Calgary attorney Brendan Miller told APTN in June.

This came days after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation found the unmarked graves of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School, which made international headlines.

“The Complainants submit the deaths, mass unmarked grave and general treatment of the 215 deceased children constitute crimes against humanity,” the lawyers’ 14-page submission reads.

“The Complainants also submit it is likely other such mass graves exist elsewhere in Canada in or around other residential schools and have been covered up by the GOC .125Government of Canada.375 and/or Vatican, their agents, employees, or actors, collectively or individually, just as the mass grave at Kamloops Residential School was.”

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at least 4,000 children died at 140 of these institutions designed to forcibly assimilate First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples into Canadian society.