The entire ‘mass graves’ controversy is a fraud
With reluctance, I revisit Aboriginal issues, to assault directly the federal government’s compulsive pious posturing about what is commonly and misleadingly called “reconciliation.” Practically everyone agrees that Canada’s First Nations have many legitimate grievances and wishes justice for them. To accomplish this, we must not only produce a radically new policy; we must also undo the injustices we have inflicted on ourselves. The controversy over the “unmarked graves of missing children” has gone quiet, presumably because its propagators declined to use the money that has been allocated to establish whether there are any such graves. This controversy blew up so quickly into shocking charges bandied about and repeated all over the world that a pause enables us to review them briefly with no hyperbole.
As distinguished conservative Alberta political scientist Tom Flanagan detailed in a June 2022 article in UnHerd, on May 27, 2021, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia announced that a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey had found “the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.” Its chief alleged that “these missing children are undocumented deaths.” The anthropologist who conducted the GPR search later cautioned that excavations would be required to be sure that what had been found were in fact burials. By the time this little-noticed caveat was uttered, a storm of almost hysterical mass denigration had broken out throughout the country and Canada had plunged into a whirlpool of self-defamation and international obloquy.
Other First Nations that had hosted residential schools quickly saw the potential for this sort of charge, conducted their own GPR scans and announced similar revelations. On May 30, 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seized the headship of this burgeoning movement of national self-flagellation by ordering all federal government Canadian flags to be lowered to half-mast until further notice, in recognition of the “215 children whose lives were taken at the Kamloops residential school.”
Thus, on no authority whatsoever, he used the presence of possible but unverified burials of unidentified people to portray Canada as having once been a charnel house of murdered and secretly interred Indigenous children. Again, there was no evidence to sustain any part of that allegation. The flags would remain at half-staff for nearly six months, to the bemusement of people passing by Canadian embassies and consulates all over the world.
In June 2021, the escalation accelerated with the announcement from the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan of the discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of its former residential school. On Oct. 18, 2021, Trudeau attended a memorial ceremony for the “missing children” in Kamloops, B.C., and was verbally abused by some Aboriginals present. At this time, 68 mainly Roman Catholic churches, many of them Indigenous parish churches, were vandalized, and several were burned to the ground in apparent reprisal for the “murdered children.” There was minimal public reaction. As Flanagan remarked, one might “imagine the outrage if 68 synagogues or mosques had been vandalized and burned.” The campaign of the Canadian government to give the country a total immersion in unwarranted self- hate before the astonished eyes of the whole world descended to a new depth indicated by the comment in the New York Times on May 28, 2021: “For decades, most Indigenous children in Canada were taken from their families and forced into boarding schools. A large number never returned home, their families given only vague explanations, or none at all.” The discovery of these supposed graves in Kamloops was selected by Canadian newspaper editors as the news story of the year and the world press photo of the year was one of red dresses hung on crosses with a rainbow in the background, which was helpfully explained to be a commemoration of child victims of the Indian residential school system.
PHOTO BY JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Apart from Flanagan and a few others (including me), there have been few and faint voices making the salient points that, in fact, no groups of unmarked graves have been discovered anywhere in Canada; that hundreds of soil disturbances have been detected but despite the generous provision of public funds to conduct the necessary forensic investigation, it is not known if any of them are human burials, much less children’s graves. It is almost completely unpublicized that much of the GPR research was conducted in community cemeteries not restricted to Indigenous people located near residential school sites, and that graves were often marked by simple wooden crosses that could not long survive the Canadian climate. There may be thousands of now unmarked graves of Indigenous people of all ages.
Nor are there any “missing children.” As Flanagan illustrates, this was a fabrication by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, some of whose members got into the habit of claiming there were thousands of children sent to residential schools who vanished. Throughout society in the 19th century, there were many children who died of tuberculosis, but all such deaths were recorded and obviously families were informed; there were never any inquiries about missing Indigenous children filed with police or other authorities. Indian residential school students were meticulously enumerated, partly to calculate the Department of Indian Affairs’ per capita subsidy to the schools.
It is claimed that 150,000 students were “forced” to attend the residential schools and there have been many heart-rending descriptions of them being torn from the arms of their parents, particularly Cree artist Kent Monkman’s famous painting of missionaries and mounted police snatching Indigenous children from their mothers, but it is a complete fiction. As Flanagan writes, it’s “a fever dream of the imagination.” School attendance by Indigenous children was only made compulsory in 1920 for the same reason that that rule was applied to all other children. The majority of Indigenous schoolchildren attended day schools, and those who attended residential schools only did so after applications were signed by a parent or guardian. A great many of these application forms are publicly available through government archives, and have been conspicuously ignored by those who find them inconvenient to their zealous mythmaking. Out of this farrago of malicious nonsense came the self-addressed blood libel of a genocide perpetrated against First Nations.
In addition to approximately $4.7 billion in reparations, recent federal budgets have devoted hundreds of millions toward “addressing the shameful legacy of residential schools.” Again, the schools undoubtedly inflicted many episodes of mistreatment. But their purpose was to lift Indigenous children out of poverty and illiteracy and launch them promisingly into adulthood. This entire controversy is an outrage, a boondoggle and a fraud. False accusations of genocide do not promote “reconciliation.” Justin Trudeau’s performance has been shameful; he has disgraced Canada.
This article was originally published in the National Post. It has been republished with the author’s permission.