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Building a Canadian Blood Libel, Part 2: Kimberly Murray

Find Part 1 here.

Where Kevin Annett strikes an absurd and often unhinged figure in the residential school discourse, Kimberly Murray presents herself as a calm, academic, almost solemn voice of reason. On the surface, the difference between them appears as stark as that between Don Quixote and Atticus Finch, but the difference is only superficial. Underneath, Annett and Murray share the same anti-factual, conspiratorial mindset.

 

Murray has held several high-profile appointments including one as the Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and she is now acting as the Independent Special interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools. In her latest role, Murray has led a crusade against so-called “denialists,” taking special aim at them in the release of her interim report on unmarked graves and missing children.

Kimberly Murray

Kimberly Murray has a long career of appointed positions, and was chosen as “Special Interlocutor” due to her previous role as Executive Director of the TRC.

 

In the report, Murray claims, with little evidence, that there has been an increase in the “violence of denialism.” Murray states that the “violence is prolific and takes place via email, telephone, social media, op-eds and, at times, through in-person confrontations.”

 

Leaving aside the disturbing point that a Federal Government appointee believes an op-ed or email can be considered “prolific violence,” Murray also pointed to a group of people who had allegedly entered the orchard at the Kamloops Indian Residential School with shovels to try to dig up the graves.

 

“Denialists entered the site without permission,” her report reads, “Some came in the middle of the night, carrying shovels; they said they wanted to ‘see for themselves’ if children are buried there.”

 

This shocking statement resulted in vast swaths of news coverage of the event and, of course, the Special Interlocutor’s interim report. Except, much like Kevin Annett’s wild accusations, there is not a shred of evidence for the claim.

 

Lindsay Shepherd of True North News contacted the Kamloops RCMP, which has a detachment within five hundred metres of the site of the former residential school. The RCMP stated that they had received no such reports, and could not point to any reports they had received about trespassers, shovels or no.

Kamloops entrance

True North’s Lindsay Shepherd spoke with the RCMP in Kamloops, who were unable to provide any evidence of the shovel-wielding trespassers Kimberly Murray included in her report. 

 

Even Rosanne Casimir, Chief of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, downplayed Murray’s claims when questioned in an interview with the friendly CBC Radio: “someone even showed up with a shovel in hand” – a far cry from the accusations in Murray’s report.

 

In her interim report, Murray makes no pretenses of impartiality: “I want to emphasize this point: my role is to give voice to the children. It is not to be neutral or objective – it is to be a fierce and fearless advocate to ensure that the bodies and Spirits of the missing children are treated with the care, respect, and dignity that they deserve.”

 

Murray recognizes that it might appear “that giving voice to the children conflicts with my responsibility to function independently and impartially, in a non-partisan and transparent way” but she defends her bias because “upholding human rights principles does not require me to be morally indifferent to the fate of children who are victims of genocide, mass human rights violations, and injustice.”

 

Murray later divulges that the mandate she was actually given upon her appointment by former Justice Minister David Lametti states “that I am to function independently and impartially, in a nonpartisan and transparent manner as I work to achieve the stated objectives.” When Murray disregards her official mandate then proudly declares her bias and defends it as a moral imperative, she is undermining the authority of the minister and is, in fact, insinuating a moral failure on his part. It is at this point that Murray becomes a civil servant gone rogue taking moral license from her presumption that there are child victims of genocide awaiting justice.

 

Despite the serious façade, Kimberly Murray’s work is no more grounded in reality than Kevin Annett’s wild claims about Queen Elizabeth kidnapping residential school students. But in many ways, Murray is more dangerous than Annett. While Annett may have truly started the IRS-as-genocide narrative, Murray is actively and aggressively attempting to shield it from scrutiny by claiming that questioning that narrative is violent denialism which needs to be outlawed.

 

Former Justice Minister David Lametti is on record as being supportive of the idea of criminalizing “denialism,” stating that he’s open to “a legal solution and outlawing it.”

Kimberly Murray with David Lametti

Former Justice Minister David Lametti appointed Murray as a “Special Interlocutor” and later indicated support for her desire to criminalize “denialism”. – Justin Tang, The Canadian Press

 

The new Justice Minister, Arif Virani, while decrying the “colonialism and racism which characterized Canada’s approach to Indigenous peoples,” did not go quite as far as his predecessor, instead stating that the radical proposal will get “proper consideration.”

 

Murray explains how she knows there are missing and murdered children in unmarked burials: “Elders having (sic) been saying that the Spirits of the children are still here. People can feel them. There are things the children are doing to get noticed. Many have said that in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, and at other sites where unmarked burials exist, the children are speaking. They are telling those who are willing to listen that they need to be found and that ceremonies and proper protocols need to be conducted to help their Spirits journey home to rest with their ancestors.”

 

Even as a moribund appeal to racial mysticism, this is an embarrassing tautology. The unmarked burials exist because ghosts exist, and the ghosts exist because Knowledge Keepers ‘hear’ them.

 

Murray goes on to write: “Search and recovery work is … about finding the missing children and ensuring those responsible for creating the conditions that contributed to their deaths are held accountable.” Murray is insinuating that Canada, through the IRS, violated Article 6(c) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

 

In a January 30, 2023 letter to the UN, Murray wrote: “Survivors have shared information of children who were there one day then disappeared the next, of newborn babies being put into incinerators, being forced to dig the graves of children who died.”

Murray did not identify these witnesses which comes perilously close to obstructing justice because there is no statute of limitations on the commission of homicide in Canada. Annett’s Unrepentant features the testimony of Sylvester Green, who claims that he, along with his brother Larry, Alex Patsy, and Albert Cardinal, dug some of those graves. It seems likely that Murray drew on Annett’s research; but, regardless of how Murray came to know about such witnesses, these men could indicate where they dug these graves, all of which should be made known to the RCMP. Hypothetically, Murray knows where to find bodies but isn’t going to look, not because she fears what she will find there but because she’s afraid of what she won’t find. That was the lesson of failure at Camsell. The rest of Canada should not be held hostage to her prevarications.

 

“The Indian Residential School System,” writes Murray, “was put in place for the express purpose of ‘killing the Indian in the child.’ This has been characterized as ‘cultural genocide’ by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in 2015, a ‘colonial genocide’ by Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in 2019, and ‘genocide’ by the House of Commons in 2022.”

 

Murray is not trying to find Canada guilty of unqualified genocide; her starting point is that Canada’s guilt is proven. Murray wants what follows a guilty verdict of committing genocide: the conviction of Canada.

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