News & Articles
Browse all content by date.
By Guest Columnist
From a recent edition of “The Canadian Shield” (Volume 3, Issue 3, titled “The Truth That Failed”)
We’ve just spent half a day (perhaps too much) reading a 115-page tome, neither scholarly nor journalistic mais tous les deux, titled “They Came For The Children.” It’s the interim report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that icon and crowning triumph of the conservative Stephen Harper’s Canadian majority government.
It’s good. It is, indeed, a jaw-dropper for sleeping Canadians. And it’s great material for the likes of Fats Milloy, the Trent University savant in the field of indigenous atrocity, of Flyin’ Phil Fontaine, the government poster boy and erstwhile chief pooh-bah of the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs (AFN), and legions of Canadian journalists wondering where their next byline is coming from. All three groups in the last few days have been enthusing about Justice Murray Sinclair’s tour de farce. (The last word is not a typo.)
The sickening history of the rez schools
And in fact, Sinclair (together with Littlechild and Wilson, the other commissioners in the triumvirate) does tell the truth about the sickening Canadian history of the rez schools. They just don’t tell ENOUGH truth. When they get close to the mark, a curtain seems to drop. Censorship seems to sink in, and we all know why. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) told them to do it that way. It was in their mandate.
If we were visiting aliens from Mars or Tahiti, or perhaps Courtenay, B.C., unfamiliar with or perhaps uncaring about the reality of life in the true North, strong and free (as long as you’re white), we would be impressed—and profoundly sickened—with this story—although indeed there is nothing new here that most of us had not known about before, however obliquely.
It’s all here, and lavishly presented. The stark photos of rows and rows of native kids posing glumly with nuns, priests, and functionaries in front of institutional-looking buildings reminiscent of churches, in Sandy Bay, or Qualicum, or Brantford. It’s well-written, not of course by the Milloys or the Fontaines but by some flack in the PMO, and signed off by those three I have difficulty not calling the Three Stooges of Canadian historical re-engineering: Sinclair, Littlechild, and Wilson. The Truth and Reconciliation gang who aren’t about to set us free.
They talk endlessly about the atrocities in the rez schools, but always with studied restraint. Let us say it again: what they say is bad enough, by any normal prison standard. This stuff is enough to make you sick at the whole human race, not just lovely Canada. The starvation, the beatings, the deprivation of family, culture, even language.
They flirt with Dr. Peter Bryce’s 1907 account of a 50 percent annual mortality rate in the residential schools, but it’s sloughed off, mentioning only how inhuman was Bryce’s idiot boss, Duncan Campbell Scott—intent on wiping out all vestiges of the noble Indian culture his generation sought to extinguish. But the Stooges know their limitations, their mandate. There is not a single mention in 115 pages of the word “rape,” “sodomy,” “medical experimentation,” “sterilization,” or, God help us, the G-word, even in the sanitized academic fashion that Milloy hints at.
Stage-managing the testimony at the bogus
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
How could it have been otherwise, according to the reports we’ve received from those hootenanny sessions they held in Winnipeg and Inuvik and Halifax.
Peter Yellow Quill, an Anishinabe elder from western Manitoba, told us in great detail how prospective witnesses—victims and survivors—were coached as to what and how they were to testify, the whole stage-managed, scripted method to ensure that the testimony wouldn’t get out of hand and embarrass the good-old-boy churches and, least of all, Harper and his distinguished predecessors dating back to John A. MacDonald, the alcohol-challenged father of our country.
There’s even a straight-faced report of the famous RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) “investigation” into all this irregularity back in 1995. We know all about that one first hand, because a Mountie Sergeant in Vancouver’s “E” Division confided to Kevin Annett that “if we investigated every case of this kind of sex abuse or atrocity, it would take us forever.”
And a funny thing happened on their way to cutting-edge scholarship and historical investigative journalism. In the hundreds of footnotes—in which reference is constantly made to learned papers going back to Davin, a colonial creep of the 19th century, discussing their theories of cultural erasement, and all sorts of contemporary experts on indigenous people—not a single mention is made of Reverend Kevin Annett, or the 20 years and 400 pages of scholarship he has devoted to the subject, or the internationally award-winning feature film he and Louis Lawless created, or the attention he has gained throughout the academic world in Innsbruck, Slovenia, Norwich, Dublin, Boston, Syracuse, Chicago, Berkeley, and Duluth. And how he’s never been able to buy a headline in his own country. Indeed, his 400 pages (unlike this 115-page report) didn’t cost the Canadian taxpayers a cent, compared with the $68 million tab for this slim volume. And we thought Canadians were thrifty.
Politicians, newsmakers, university professors, working stiffs, clergy,
and even native people have been part of the cover-up
A host of people—Canadian politicians and newsmakers, university professors, working stiffs, clergypersons, and yes, native people, even beyond the cloistered space of the federally payroll-challenged chiefs and tribal councils, and especially the nouveau politicians in the AFN—believe and have already said so that Sinclair and Co. have done a valuable job here. They are unanimous in believing that there will be a new awakening in national consciousness, that education, public awareness and all sorts of goodies (like compensation) will follow. And most importantly, in a generation or three, healing will take place as we all, arm in arm, march bright-eyed and alert into the radiant tomorrow.
It’s a great script, but we believe otherwise. We believe this grandstanding minimalization (of what one honest scholar in the University of Lethbridge has called “the most re-engineered civilization in history”) can have a result that is far worse than having done nothing at all. Because we’re all led to believe that some great epiphany has occurred, when in fact not a damned thing of consequence will happen.
The barbaric Indian Act will remain in force (as Harper so announced last month) with all its medieval cruelty and control. The British Crown will still dictate Canadian land use (more ridiculous than Charles II giving three-quarters of the sub-continent to the Hudson’s Bay Company 330 years ago), we’ll all slavishly imitate Britain’s parliamentary procedure and Canada’s archaic legal system, and something called Westminster will continue as our de facto head of state. Long live the Doctrine of Discovery, the Papal bulls, and the religious bullshit.
The courageous whistle-blower Rev. Kevin Annett revealed all this—
and more—20 years ago, and nobody wanted to listen
And that’s probably exactly what would have happened anyway had Reverend Kevin Annett not blown the whistle on church, state, and corporate power—and their minions like the RCMP—20 years ago, he who has paid for his insubordination to church and state authorities ever since. He has the scars—emotional, financial, and yes, physical—to prove it. And he has watched as at least three of his closest supporters have recently disappeared or died in a curious range of circumstances.
No wonder they don’t mention him. “Kevin Annett and the Canadian Genocide,” the theme of his books, film, and international lectures, would shake up this format too much. He talks straight medicine. (See the raw evidence at www.hiddennolonger.com, especially the award-winning documentary video, “Unrepentant.”) Harper’s TRC report is a placebo.
And it’s swallowed, hook, line and sinker, by earnest “seekers after the truth” like Rodney Clifton, who works for the Frontier Center for Public Policy in Winnipeg, and who, among other things, believes that ol’ Murray is being too tough on the government when he uses the G-word, even in a nice sanitized way, like talking about obliterating a culture.
T’aint so, says Clifton, and he knows because he was there. Of course, he admits that he was at a rez school only in a supervisory capacity, which was sort of Murray Sinclair’s schtick as well. (That says a lot about his perspective.) And he says, shucks, a lot of those nuns and other people were pretty kind; he even recalls one occasion when an Indian kid was sick and they made him feel better. And apparently Clifton didn’t see any murders or anybody getting raped or zapped with a cattle prod for speaking in their own language or for wetting the bed. So it must be exaggeration. And Murray shouldn’t have used the G-word. Mind you, Sinclair sort of took it back a few days later, on instructions from the Minister, John Duncan. You remember John—he’s the one who is reluctant to show up at festive native occasions because he can’t stand salmon stew and fry bread.
“I know things in the rez schools were harsh,” says Clifton. “But I have never seen good evidence of one child dying a preventable death.”
Harsh. How about the 75,000 unpreventable deaths? Do the math. If 150,000 kids were rounded up by the Musical Ride Boys at the RCMP and put in the residential schools, and 75,000 never came out alive, what happened to them? Did they all become nuns or priests or Mounties?
Nobody’s ever touched that one. Canada spent $68 million trying to find out.
Don’t expect the TRC to come up with an answer.
Bill Annett is the father of Reverend Kevin Annett, who spoke to numerous audiences in Duluth recently about the Canadian genocide of aboriginal children in the Christian church-managed residential schools of Canada.
For more information, check out www.hiddennolonger.com, www.hiddenfromhistory.org, or the website of The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State at www.itccs.org.