Readers of Professor Hymie Rubenstein’s informative Western Standard byline are familiar with many of the claims about supposedly missing indigenous children and ‘unmarked graves.’ In a nutshell, the claims are that indigenous students at residential schools somehow met sinister deaths, and were buried in secrecy — usually by priests — clandestinely, in unmarked graves.
According to the most senior indigenous spokespeople, such as Roseanne Archibald, head chief of the AFN, there are “tens of thousands” of intentionally killed and secretly buried children in unmarked graves all across the country. Murray Sinclair says there are “15-25,000 missing children”. Chiefs, such as Willie Sellars of Williams Lake, B.C. claim that indigenous children were murdered in every conceivable way by priests, with their bodies “thrown into rivers, streams and lakes”.
Sellars also alleges that there was a decades-long conspiracy between the federal government, church and RCMP to keep all of this skullduggery hushed up.
Even the original Kamloops claim was sensational enough. The narrative is that 215 children had come to their deaths in some sinister way, at the hands of the nuns and priests who were in charge of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The children were buried in secrecy late at night, with the forced help of six years olds, on 215 separate occasions. That alone would have been the biggest crime — by far — in Canadian history.
But chiefs, like Sellars and Archibald, have taken it up to a whole new level.
Until now, that is. Now the bizarre claims are coming in so thick and fast that it is hard to keep up with them. At the Lebret Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan there is the claim that there are 2,000 “areas of interest”, with the clear implication that many of these are secret burials of sinister deaths. Tales of raped students being thrown alive into incinerators, as well as secret subterranean chambers where ghastly medical experiments were performed — Dr. Mengele style — on helpless children. If that is not enough gore, there are stories of children being murdered in broad daylight by club-wielding priests.
Meanwhile, at another indigenous community, there are allegations of 200 children being deliberately poisoned by the injection of tuberculosis bacilli into their milk. At yet another there are stories of murdered children being buried in every way and place imaginable, after dying hideous deaths at the hands of priests and nuns. And the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) utters not a word of pushback against any of these preposterous claims. Quite the contrary, it encourages them, with its tall tales of thousands of “missing children”, who went to school “and never returned.”
There is absolutely no credible evidence that any of these grotesque claims are even close to being true.
There is not one single recorded case of any indigenous parent claiming that their child had disappeared after being enrolled in a residential school. Not one police report, or historical records, of any of these tales from the crypt ever occurring.
If these wild stories give off the odour of conspiracy theories it is because that is exactly what they are — conspiracy theories, ghost stories, urban legends — call them what you will. The simple fact is that they are not true.
So what is driving these false claims?
In a word, money. When the Kamloops claim was originally made back in May 2021 the first reaction of the Trudeau government was to express complete belief in the bizarre claim that priests had secretly caused the deaths, and secretly buried, 215 children on 215 occasions.
The government then lowered the flags in Ottawa for months in recognition of these children who may never have existed. Then, most damaging of all, the government promised $320 million to indigenous communities to search for yet more of these phantom children. As a final touch, they labelled anyone who questioned any of these preposterous claims a “denier.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Marc Miller went further in his name calling, and called anyone who even wondered why not even one excavation had been undertaken, a “ghoul”.
Miller also promised indigenous communities who wanted even more money to “search” that he would ensure that they would be provided funds for the next decade.
In short, the reckless actions of the Trudeau government virtually guaranteed that the false claims would not only continue, but become more and more extreme.
And that is exactly what is now playing out. So, we can expect to see these claims coming in for years, and probably becoming more and more preposterous.
But what is the truth about “missing children and unmarked graves?”
What do we actually know?
First, there were indeed indigenous children who died while attending residential schools. Most died of the diseases of the day, in particular tuberculosis. This is not surprising, as some of the reserves these children came from had some of the highest tuberculosis rates ever recorded, anywhere. Dr. Peter Bryce was the foremost indigenous health expert at the time. He explained that children arrived at the school infected, where they infected others. In fact, of the children Bryce tested on their first day of school, every single child was infected with tuberculosis. In short, residential schools didn’t kill these children, disease did.
It is certainly true that in the early years some of the schools were not well designed to prevent the spread of disease. In fact, in those years some of the schools were probably almost as deadly as the reserves the children came from. However, at Dr. Bryce’s urging, the schools were made safer (while infection rates on the reserves remained very high until the antibiotics that ended the tuberculosis epidemic were invented.)
So, the fact that these children died of disease is sad, but no sadder than the fact that even more children were dying on the reserves where they came from. If residential schools had never existed these children would still have died.
And what about secret burials?
There is absolutely no evidence that such a thing ever happened at any residential school. These were religious schools, run by either Catholic or Protestant denominations. Proper documentation of every death took place. The vast majority of the children who died were returned to their home communities where they received a Christian burial, with parents and family in attendance. The relatively small number who were actually buried on the grounds of a residential school received a proper Christian burial. Every grave was marked. Records were kept of every death. There were no secret burials.
And what about the “unmarked graves” claim?
The graves of the children who were buried properly on their home reserves often went untended. The tending of graves and cemeteries is not a priority on many reserves, and it is common for the wooden crosses that mark graves to disintegrate and blow away with time. Often, entire cemeteries go back to nature in this way.
There is absolutely nothing sinister about that. If families and communities choose not to tend graves it is certainly not the fault of the churches, or the government. It is also a travesty to claim foul and demand millions of dollars from taxpayers simply because families chose not to tend the graves.
That is what we actually know about “missing children” and “unmarked graves.” It is certainly not as sensational as the claims now flooding in about murder, poisoning, and secret late night burials. Sadly there is money in the sensational, but none for the truth.
Expect more wild claims about sinister death and secret burials in the future. Expect anyone who questions the claims — Professor Frances Widdowson, for example — to be called a “denier” or a “ghoul.”
Expect the compliant mainstream media to continue reporting all of these unmarked grave conspiracy theories as fact.
And expect the current federal government to encourage and fund this dangerous nonsense for as long as Canadians let them get away with it.
This article was originally published in The Western Standard. It has been republished with the author’s permission. The original article can be found here.