The Smearing of Blameless Christians: Part One
By Rory Leishman
[NB: The following column is based on an article published in the October, 2023, edition of The Interim: Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper. Permission has been given for this piece to be republished.]
For 15 years, blameless Christians dedicated to the care and teaching of children within Canada’s Indian Residential Schools (IRS) have been lumped in with the few sexual predators in their midst and vilified with the most outrageous smears. Yet no political leaders or clerical leaders of the Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and United Churches which ran most of these schools for the government of Canada have even tried to set the record straight.
The Most Reverend Fred Henry, Emeritus Bishop of Calgary, is an exemplary exception. After trying without success to get the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) to start asking probing questions about incredible allegations against Catholic nuns and priests employed in the IRS schools, he fired off an email to The Catholic Register on August 13 in which he denounced as a “monstrous libel” all the base insinuations that IRS employees had murdered and clandestinely buried thousands of missing IRS children.
RoseAnne Archibald, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, is one of the most prominent perpetrators of this monstrous libel. In a BBC interview broadcast on August 4, 2021, she charged that Canada’s IRS schools were “designed to kill” First Nations 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.”
On June 23, 2021, Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan, likewise charged: “The world is watching as we unearth the findings of genocide.”
CTV News, The Globe and Mail. The National Post, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper and numerous other media outlets across Canada and around the world published Cameron’s accusation. Not one of these publishers cited any corroborating evidence to back up Cameron’s preposterous allegation.
If a group of Jewish organizations were accused of mass murder, would the mainstream media demand some proof before publishing the allegation? Of course. But when Canadian Christians are accused of genocide, all of Canada’s major newspapers and broadcasters publish the abominable accusation without even attempting to verify its truth.
In the course of investigating the IRS schools, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) spent six years traveling the country, interviewed more than 6,500 witnesses and examined over 5 million government records. Yet the TRC did not manage to identify even one IRS student who was murdered by an IRS employee.
Correspondingly, despite extensive investigations of murders reported to the TRC, the RCMP has never come up with enough evidence to warrant charging any IRS employee with murdering a residential-school child.
Regardless, the likes of Archibald and Cameron still insist, without any proof, that Christians employed in the IRS schools committed mass murder.
Bishop Emeritus Fred Henry
Bishop Henry, in his e-mail to The Catholic Register, focusses on sinister allegations about thousands of missing IRS children. He asks: “Why is the Catholic Church not asking the federal government for proof that even one residential child is actually missing in the sense that his or her parents didn’t know what happened to their child at the time of the child’s death?”
Kimberly Murray, the federally-appointed Special Interlocotur for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites Associated with Indian Residential Schools, has looked into this issue. In her 175-page interim report released on June 16, she cites the tragic case of Marieyvonne Alaka Ukaliannuk, a four-year-old who simply vanished from the Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Day School in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, early in the 1960s.
Murray relates that the federal government flew Marieyvonne 800 kilometers south by seaplane from her home on a tiny Arctic island to the Sir Joseph Bernier residential school. Tragically, during her first year at the school, she suffered a head injury while playing with friends that was so serious that the school sent her for treatment to a hospital in Churchill, Manitoba. While there, she contracted tuberculosis and was transferred again, first to a larger hospital in Winnipeg, then to a sanitorium in Toronto, then to a hospital in Montreal, and finally to a convalescent home in the Eastern Townships..
Due to an appalling bureaucratic foul-up, Marieyvonne went missing during all her transfers. And she remained missing for more than 50 years before an indefatigable Innu researcher in Iqaluit finally tracked down the child’s movements and was able to inform her distraught mother that Marieyvonne had died at age eight and was buried in the cemetery of a Roman Catholic church in Magog, Quebec.
Three of the five white crosses in the Poppy Field of the St. Patrice Roman Catholic Cemetery
The disappearance of Marieyvonne was inexcusable. But note: The federal government spent tens of thousands of dollars transferring the little girl from one hospital to another in an attempt to save her life. Is it plausible that this same government abetted genocide in the IRS schools?
In addition to Marieyvonne, Murray cites three sisters from the Pimicikamak (Cross Lake) Cree Nation – Nora, Isobel and Betsey Osborne – who, Murray says, were taken away from their community, one by one, during the 1920s and 1930s. Murray alleges: “Their family never saw them again.”
Yet Murray acknowledges in her report that one of the daughters, Betsey, was sent to St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School in Cross Lake, the very area in which the Pimicikamak Reserve is located. Betsey attended there for six years, yet Murray would have us believe her parents never knew their daughter was living at the IRS school in virtually their own hometown.
St. Joseph’s IRS Cross Lake
Why, it might also be wondered, was Betsey sent to a residential school in her parents’ hometown? Murray offers no explanation. However, in a paper cited in Murray’s footnotes, researchers at the University of Manitoba report that the Osborne parents “lived on the land for most of the year.” That is to say, they were traditional, nomadic Crees who eked out a bare subsistence living by spending most of the year roaming through the wilderness to hunt, fish, trap and collect wild berries and other edible plants.
Murray suggests that the Osborne parents were forced to send their children to an IRS school. That, to say the least, is questionable. What Murray does not mention in her report is that since 1920, all parents in Manitoba — Indigenous or non-Indigenous — have been obligated by law to send their children to school, but to this day, the great majority of these parents — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — willingly do so because they understand that schooling is in the best interest of their child.
While some at-risk children were compelled to attend an IRS school for their own protection, it is indisputable that the overwhelming majority of IRS students were voluntarily enrolled in an IRS institution by their parents.
A classroom at the St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany
Furthermore, notwithstanding all the wild charges of mass murder in the IRS schools, there is no verifiable evidence that any but a tiny handful IRS students mysteriously died and disappeared, and no evidence whatsoever that any student was murdered by an employee of an IRS institution.
End of Part 1