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The Peddling of Canada’s Indigenous Mass Grave and Genocide Libels

Originally published by Woke Watch Canada.   https://wokewatchcanada.substack.com/p/the-peddling-of-canadas-indigenous

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The claim that thousands of Indigenous children who attended Canada’s Indian Residential Schools between 1883 and 1996 are buried in “mass graves” across Canada, reputed victims of genocide, is slowly being exposed as a hoax.

Though the missing children and genocide claims have been bandied about for decades, their widespread promotion began on May 27, 2021, with a media releasefrom the Kamloops Indian Reserve in British Columbia that rocked Canada to its core:

May 27, 2021, Kamloops It is with a heavy heart that Tk’emlúps te Secwé pemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir confirms an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar [GPR] specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School…. We look forward to providing updates as they become available.”

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Symbolic commemoration of Kamloops Indian Residential School burials, still in symbolic mode three years after their alleged discovery. 

Though this discovery provoked dozens of sensational headlines around the world about missing Indigenous children buried in unmarked mass graves, there has never been any such “confirmation,” only a brief summary of the GPR results whose full report has never been released.

The Kamloops “confirmation” – growing more inconclusive as time has passed – consisted solely of signs of sub-surface soil irregularities, not images of human or other organic remains, features GPR cannot detect.

Although the dam has not been burst on what increasingly looks like a burial ruse, it was damaged on August 18, 2023 when the 14 closely-spaced soil disturbances detected last year using GPR in the basement of the church on the site of the former Pine Creek Residential School turned out to contain animal bones and debris, not human remains.

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The Canadian flag was lowered on the Peace Tower in Ottawa for over five long months to commemorate the May 2021 discovery of soil disturbances near the Indian Residential School on the Kamloops Indian Reserve that has still not revealed the existence of a single buried body.

But focusing solely on the recent history of both the genocide and mass grave allegations neglects their historical roots and impact, namely that what could be called an Aboriginal-style blood libel was promoted, perhaps even invented, by a Christian minister decades earlier.

The fabricator is a still active propagandist named Kevin Annett, a defrocked United Church of Canada cleric who began peddling poisonous snake oil by the bucketful to gullible Indigenous and non-Indigenous people 30 years ago.

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Kevin Annett

Kevin Annett has been a simple, straightforward, and constant falsehood peddler from the early 1990s to the present, making it his life’s work to convince as many people as possible that tens of thousands of Indian Residential School children were brutally murdered by priests in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.

He has done so by giving countless addresses, producing many videos, and publishing several books, his only vocations since being expelled from the United Church in 1995, five years after his ordination, for outrageously libelous rants from the pulpit.

Like many conspiracy theorists, Annett didn’t fabricate all his lurid tales. Instead, his core canards about murderous priests seem to have come from stories told to him by homeless alcoholics like William “Billie” Coombes, a former Kamloops Indians Residential School student Annett befriended in Vancouver’s downtown skid row.

In the 2006 documentary video Unrepentant: Kevin Annett and Canada’s Genocide, viewed by thousands, Coombes proclaimed: “They want evidence. As a seven-year-old child, I witnessed myself the burial of a child, and I didn’t know what was happening at that time. I was with another student, and I asked him, ‘What’s happening here? I see them digging a hole in the orchard [at Kamloops],’ and he said, ‘They’re burying another one.’”

Annett also quotes Coombes in the 2001 edition of Hidden From History: The Canadian Genocide as stating, “A friend of mine and I were out scavenging for food, since they never fed us regular. We saw [Catholic] Brother Murphy dragging this bag towards a hole near the orchard. He turned it over and a small body fell into the hole, and he started throwing the dirt in.”

In Annett’s account, Coombes also claimed to have witnessed Brother Murphy killing a child by throwing her off a balcony.

Another story widely distributed by Annett claimed Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip took a group of students from the Kamloops Indian Residential School on a picnic and then abducted them. Fact-checking shows that the Royals were nowhere near Kamloops when they travelled to Canada in 1964.

As political scientist Frances Widdowson has carefully rightly argued in a long and detailed 2022 America Conservative essay, “While the Queen Elizabeth abduction story probably would be regarded with skepticism by most, many similar improbable accounts of “murders” and “missing children” are being repeated by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc “Knowledge Keepers” and are now accepted as “truth.” Knowledge Keepers, after all, cannot be questioned, because to do so would be perceived as “disrespectful…. These stories were given additional momentum in May 2021 and are now firmly ensconced within the Canadian consciousness.”

There have always been two problems with Annett’s pronouncements. First, neither he nor his informants have ever produced any evidence supporting these claims: “RCMP investigators who have looked into Annett’s allegations always come up empty.” Second, the mainstream media mainly ignored his accusations, except until very recently when they began to be promoted by Indigenous politicians and activists.

Annett’s statements and supporting books and videos directly influenced Kamloops and other residential school “Knowledge Keepers,” an assertion strongly supported by Frances Widdowson’s careful research.

According to Widdowson:

In looking at the oral histories about secret burials at KIRS, the first eyewitness account of burials is claimed, by Kevin Annett, to have been made in 1998 (a search for earlier testimonies has found no reference to murders or secret burials). Annett asserts that Jessie (sometimes spelled Jesse) Jules made these allegations when he spoke at a United Nations–affiliated International Human Rights Association of American Minorities tribunal held on June 12–14, 1998, which was organized “to investigate genocide in Canadian Indian schools” (the “Judicial Findings” from this tribunal can be found online). According to Annett, even though Jules feared that he would be punished by his home reserve if he “mentioned the dead kids,” he told the tribunal that:

“… fellow Kamloops students were starved to death in underground chambers at the school and forced to sleep with children dying of tuberculosis after they tried running away. He named Catholic priests like Brother Murphy who sodomized kids with cattle prods and beat a boy named Arnold to death with a club. Jessie saw another priest push a young girl named Patricia out a window to her death. He even drew us a map of where he buried children at night at the order of the priests.”

Perhaps the first high-ranking Indigenous official to employ the genocide label, was Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo who argued in October 2011that “I, along with so many of our people, feel if you consider what the term genocide means. It references to the killing of people. Our people died in residential schools.”

While the mainstream media has paid almost no attention to evidence disputing the mass grave and genocide accusations, even investigative journalists who have subjected them to scrutiny have failed to carefully document their roots or the role Indigenous officials have played in their promotion.

That the legacy media has only parroted since May 2021 what Annett and compliant Indigenous organizations and leaders have been saying for nearly three decades challenges the questionable exoneration of Aboriginal culpability by a National Postnewspaper choir – Tristin Hopper, Meaghan Walker-Williams, and Father Raymond J. de Souza – all singing the same tone-deaf lyrics composed by their choir master noted investigative journalist Terry Glavin.

In a widely read piece called The year of the graves: How the world’s media got it wrong on residential school graves, the same Terry Glavin who in 2008 did an exemplary job exposing the conspiracy theories of Kevin Annett, simply dismissed him on May 26, 2022, as an unnamed “defrocked white United Church minister.”

Though Glavin quoted from Widdowson’s 2022 essay, he ignored her carefully documented findings of a direct historical link between Annett’s early work and contemporary “Indigenous Knowings” while claiming the main fake news propagandists have been contemporary sensational-headline hungry media hacks because, “it wasn’t the Indigenous people directly involved who made the disturbing claims that ended up in the headlines.”

More particularly, he opined:

“From the beginning, the local Indigenous leaders tended to argue for careful, thoughtful and precise language. It was Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc [Kamloops Indian Band] Chief Rosanne Casimir who pointed out, after the first shocking headlines: ‘This is not a mass grave, but rather unmarked burial sites that are, to our knowledge, also undocumented.’…The local Indigenous leaders most directly involved in last summer’s ‘discoveries’ tended to be the most cautious of all the various participants in the rancorous public debates. In some cases, those local leaders had never even intended to draw any public attention to the ‘ground truth’ work they were overseeing at the residential school sites that ended up the subject of all those shocking headlines.

As an example, he quotes Kamloops Chief Rosanne Casimir stating in response to the first shocking headlines of mass graves, “This is not a mass grave, but rather unmarked burial sites that are, to our knowledge, also undocumented.”

Including Kamloops, Glavin was only able to offer four examples of Aboriginal leaders supporting his assertion. The words of a much larger and far more influential cohort of leaders, past and present, suggests these four are outliers.

Even the Kamloops example needs to be discounted because Glavin failed to note that Chief Casimir quickly and hypocritically retreated to the mainstream Indigenous party line less than two months after her Kamloops announcement.

At the July 6-8, 2021, Annual General Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), she moved the following resolution passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly, the AFN’s ruling body:

“[The Chiefs-in-Assembly] Stand in solidarity with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc [Kamloops Indian Band] and all survivors of the Residential School System and their families and assert that the mass grave discovered at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School reveals Crown conduct reflecting a pattern of genocide against Indigenous Peoples that must be thoroughly examined and considered in terms of Canada’s potential breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law.” [emphasis added]

Glavin and others also failed to look for similar resolutions or statements about mass graves that followed one after the other from Indigenous leaders, associations, and media sites, including the Saddle Lake Cree Indian Reserve, the Windspeaker.comonline Indigenous newsletter, the statement from Southern Chiefs’ Organization, representing 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations, the Final Resolution of Union of British Columbian Chiefs, representing over 150 of the province’s Indian Bands, the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, representing and advocating for the 203 First Nations in British Columbia, and Murray Sinclair, former Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

One of the outlandish Indigenous stories underpinning the genocide mantra comes from St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School on the Williams Lake Indian Reserve in British Columbia, where GPR results released on January 25, 2022, revealed 93 soil disturbances near the school that were termed “potential graves that require further analysis.”

According to the band’s chief, Willie Sellars, the discovery took place on a 14-hectare parcel of land at and around the St. Joseph’s Mission site.

Sellars said the real story of what occurred at the St. Joseph’s Mission has been intentionally obscured for generations and that his investigation team “recorded not only stories involving the murder and disappearance of children and infants, they have listened to countless stories of systematic torture, starvation, rape and sexual assault of children at St. Joseph’s Mission.”

Over a year and a half later, no further announcements have been made about these GPR findings or the allegations of murder and abuse at this school, a hit-and-run process mimicked by nearly every other announcement like it.

Another inconclusive but overblown burial announcement began on June 24, 2021, a month after the Kamloops announcement, about the discovery of 751 soil anomalies using GPR on Saskatchewan’s Cowessess Indian Reserve. Chief Cadmus Delorme, the community’s leader, said, “This is not a mass grave site. These are unmarked graves” in a known but abandoned cemetery that is thought to contain the bodies of adults and children of different nationalities.

This measured statement did not prevent Chief Bobby Cameron, head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations representing 74 Indian Reserves in Saskatchewan from immediately distorting this find by stating, “They will find more bodies and they won’t stop until they locate everyone who was killed by the state and the churches.”

The world is watching Canada as we unearth the findings of genocide. We had concentration camps here in Canada, in Saskatchewan; they were called Indian residential schools. Canada will be known as the nation who tried to exterminate the First Nations. Now we have evidence.”

Over two years later, no other “evidence” has been forthcoming.

Among the most prominent perpetrators of this inflammatory mode of data interpretation and promotion has been RoseAnne Archibald, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, representing over 600 of Canada’s treaty communities.

At a July 15, 2021, Kamloops Indian Band public presentation and media event meant to present a few more details about the GPR survey, Archibald maintained that the Kamloops case told the world “how 215 innocent children died and were buried in unmarked graves” and that this “crime against humanity” constituted “genocide.”

Completely ignoring the caution expressed by all the known researchers conducting these band-sponsored GPR searches, Archibald added that “this ground penetrating technology is revealing evidence, undisputable proof, that crimes were committed.”

In an interview broadcast by the BBC on August 4, 2021, Archibald charged that Canada’s Indian Residential Schools were “designed to kill” Indigenous children. “And we are seeing proof of that,” she said. “1,600 children, innocent children, have been recovered so far…. We are going to be in the thousands upon ten thousands of children found. I am not sure how you can say that the recovery of that many little children does not signify what it is – genocide.”

Chief Archibald failed to mention that not a single child “has been recovered so far.”

Only one of the gruesome stories now being endlessly repeated about happenings at Kamloops and other residential schools found their way into the pages of the six-volume Truth and Reconciliation Report written to document the history, operation, and legacy of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, an effort that stretched over seven years and cost $72 million to research and write. Even that single story was rejected by the police as unfounded.

None of the Report’s 94 “Calls to Action” mentions searching for children secretly buried in unmarked graves, let alone the existence of mass graves containing their remains.

Despite such evidence, Tristin Hopper, a National Post columnist and Glavin clone on Indigenous issues, argued on September 6, 2023, that:

But there’s just one problem with claims that this [the existence of mass graves] was all an engineered [Indigenous] hoax: The preliminary claims of First Nations performing the surveys did not state that these were “mass graves,” that they were deliberately concealed or that they were the result of homicide. At least in the beginning, the claims of “mass graves” or mass murder would stem mostly from foreign news outlets.”

To excuse Indigenous culpability, Walker-Williams, a Cowichan Tribes member, even asserted in a September 14, 2023, National Post editorial that “if there were reports of mass graves by some members of First Nations communities, it was largely because they likely did not understand what a ‘mass grave’ meant.” This fabricated, even racist, assertion that Indigenous leaders and activists, including Murray Sinclair, are too ignorant to know the difference between individual and collective burials is incomprehensible.

Also unbelievable is the unsubstantiated comment by Roman Catholic priest Father Raymond de Souza, a columnist for the National Post and editor-in-chief of Convivium Magazine, that “mass graves” in Canada, a term implying mass murder, even genocide, “were driven primarily by the media, not Indigenous groups,” an assertion he surely lifted from Annett’s 2022 essay.

As for Glavin, paralleling the perspective he took in his 2008 evisceration of Annett, there is only a repeat of a morally sentimental, unidimensional noble savage view of Indigenous people as uncorrupted by Western civilization or, far worse, an implicit acceptance that because distortion, exaggeration, and outright prevarication are expected Aboriginal defensive responses to a troubled colonial history, they should either be forgiven or forgotten. If it is the latter, such a sentiment deserves to be called for what it is: the soft bigotry of low Indigenous expectations for those fully assimilated Aboriginal leaders and advisors who should be judged by the same standards as all other Canadians.

Most of all, Glavin seems indifferent to the fact that despite massive Indigenous liability for spreading the mass grave hoax, it took a person of Annett’s guile, grit, and megalomania to make these stories seem believable to entire Indigenous communities looking for an excuse, any excuse, to explain their downtrodden status.

The latest revelation coming out of the Kamloops Indian Reserve appeared on May 18, 2024 when it was announced that its offices would be closed on  May 23 for Day of Reflection, presumably because that date was when the results of the GPR study was presented to its officials. The May 18 notice was accompanied by the following words:

With the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light — the confirmation of 215 anomalies were detected. [emphasis added]

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Recall that the May 27, 2021 press release, referred to above, contained the following words:

This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. [emphasis added]:

No commemoration of the Kamloops “discovery” for the second year in a row and a transformation from “remains” to “anomalies” — soil disturbances of unknown origin or content — seems to be an enormous repudiation of the original “discovery.”

As for the federal government, unable to substantially reduce Indigenous adversities and pathologies, it is indifferent to such revelations. Instead, it is content to shamelessly divert public attention away from its failed Indigenous policies by pouring millions in blood money as reparations for a historical genocide that never took place.

What can be said with some certainty at this uncertain point in Canadian history is that Kevin Annett and his Indigenous ideological acolytes are responsible for inflicting damage on this country that may take decades to undo.

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