Sunday, April 20, 2008

Residential Schools: Canada's Holocaust?

Alleged mass graves raise uncomfortable questions for Canadians

There is little question that of the few blemishes to Canada's human rights record, the sad atrocity that was Residential Schooling is the most disfiguring.

The atrocities that took place there have long been recognized by Canadian law, although many surviving victims still wait for even the most basic recompense.

Recent events, however, have shed some additional light on those victims who didn't survive, some of whom were never accounted for.

In an announcement largely ignored by the mainstream media this past week, the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, an organization dedicated to uncovering the truth regarding reportedly tens of thousands of Aboriginal children who disappeared from the schools. According to former United Church minister Kevin Annett, the number of unaccounted for ranges from 40,000-50,000.

The statement released by the organization alleges that many of those children can be accounted for in mass graves at 28 residential school sites.

While the allegations alone are unsettling enough, there seems to be some work yet undone on these claims that may have made an announcement more than a little premature.

To start off with, no physical evidence has been found to corroborate the claims.

However, it's well known that a significant number of children at the schools died tuburculosis -- at one particular school, up to 63% of the children are reported to have died (although none of the sources available seem to actually identify the school). All those dead children have to have gone somewhere, and their families have the right to know.

There are, however, some intracies in the story that stretch either the credulity of the claims, or the what remains of the credulity of, in particular, the Churches involved in Residential Schooling.

Consider, for example, Kevin Annett, a former Reverend ordained by the United Church of Canada, was defrocked by the United Church in 1996. He has become one of the leading figures demanding further investigation of Residential Schools. It's not hard to imagine that he could be conducting his crusade as a measure of seeking revenge against the Church.

However, he was defrocked to "inadequate pastoral skills", a charge vague enough to suggest that he may have been defrocked for asking too many questions about the Port Alberni Residential School.

The story would also seem to be contradicted by the stories told by individuals like Sylvester Greene, who, while working for a United Church-run residential school, was paid to dig a grave for a deceased five-year-old boy.

Greene, who worked at a St Albert-area residential school, was hired to dig only one grave, for only one child. According to Greene, a friend and cousin of his told him that they also buried one child apiece.

The St. Albert school -- now the Poundmaker's Lodge, an addiction treatment center -- is among the sites named by the oddly-named International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (oddly named because it doesn't seem to be an international panel at all, but rather an investigatory arm of the The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared).

It would seem strange that the United Church would bother to dig individual graves if they were maintaining mass graves during the duration of the residential schooling.

One other issue undermining the credulity of the mass grave claims are some of the other claims made about Residential Schools in the past: namely, that Residential Schooling was a genocide. This particular claim confuses genocide, which -- whether they will admit this or not -- requires large-scale killing (although sterilization could actually do just as well), with ethnic cleansing, which only requires the destruction or removal of a particular ethnic culture.

(The rejection of Residential Schooling as an example ethnic cleansing in favour of the more spectacular claims of genocide and Holocaust actually makes little sense when one considers that ethnic cleansing is no less reprehensible than outright genocide.)

Likewise, it's not hard to believe that the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared could be making mass grave claims where unmarked grave claims would be more appropriate. (And likewise, unmarked graves are bad enough on their own.)

It will certainly remain difficult for the media to take the claims of mass graves seriously until physical evidence of them can be produced.

But frankly, the allegations alone are disturbing enough, and warrant investigation. This is a matter that should, nonetheless, be taken seriously by both the Federal Government and the RCMP.

Even if the only role served by investigating these allegations ends up being dispelling them, it will have been well worth the time, effort and funds expended to dispel this shadow of doubt upon the Canadian psyche.

But by the same token, if the claims of mass graves do turn out to be true, it will only demand that Canadians ask more uncomfortable questions of themselves, and of their history. But such questions would be necessary, and the result of an investigation that is equally necessary.


  1. You are asking the right questions. Here is some information in response:

    The media have been following this issue closely, right up until the release of the grave locations, which is in a total news blackout. Somebody doesn't want Canadians to know the truth, and somebody was able to apply pressure to the media, maybe? Who would that be?

    The claims are not premature, but in fact long overdue. They are eye witness accounts. In an International Tribunal on Genocide, eye witness and personal accounts are considered the primary source of evidence.

    The death rate from tuberculosis in Canada's 'Indian' Residential Schools was by far the highest ever on record in the world, and seven times the rate of death of their families in the villages, itself a world record. The children died in such huge numbers because they were deliberately exposed to disease: There was no separation of sick children, and personal accounts indicate children were forced to sleep, play and eat with sick children. This deliberate exposure was reported by the government's own Medical Officer in 1909, whose position was then deleted. It was reported again in 1936: There was no change in 3 decades, and children continued to die at those high rates (60%) until the 1950's.

    Genocide is defined as "... intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a ... racial group." Ethnic cleansing is the same as genocide.

    Canada has used every dirty trick in the book to destroy Indigenous culture and assimilate the people into our dominant culture, including mass deaths and mass sterilization of children as well as adults, especially those from families of traditional chiefs. This is genocide.

    Kevin Annett was defrocked for letting Indigenous people tell their stories about deaths in residential school in his church, AND for asking too many questions about a land deal the church was involved in in the 1990's, selling Ahousat traditional land to MacMillan-Bloedell for logging.
    His 'hearing' included only statements from the white, 'old guard' in his church (10%), ignoring all of the supportive statements from his Aboriginal parishioners(90%).

    The parties implicated in genocide are the Government of Canada (policy, supervision), the Anglican, Catholic and United Churches (carrying out policy/'program'), and the RCMP (enforcing mandatory attendance)

    The government's 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' includes only these three parties in addition to the former Aboriginal students. How can a Commission of the perpetrators deliver justice? They can't.

    The International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada is called 'international' because it includes representatives and forensic investigative teams from two other countries, as well as the Indigenous Elders.

    We are currently trying to protect the gravesites so the RCMP doesn't dig them up to hide the evidence. We have received information that this is possible.

    We have miles to go, and perhaps a complete revolution, before Canada can claim to be "nice".

    Because the genocide inflicted on Indigenous Peoples was of the most heinous kind, with a primary strategy of mass death and brainwashing of children.

  2. I'm not sure precisely where to start here.

    First off, the claims are premature. Eyewitness accounts or not, physial evidence is necessary to establish it as fact. To date, there is none.

    Furthermore, the International Genocide Tribunal is not an international tribunal. It would first have to actually be international -- featuring members from more than one country -- and it is not.

    Genocide is not the intent to destroy an ethnic or racial group in part. Genocide is the intent to destroy them in their entirety, by wiping out their bloodline. It's right in the word: geno (genome) cide (act of killing kill).

    The act of genocide cannot be accomplished without one of two things -- killing the ethnic or racial group in question, or sterilizing their members so they cannot reproduce.

    The definition struck by the international convention (which actually stretches out genocide to cover all acts of ethnic cleansing) aside, the point remains rather moot.

    The charges of ethnic cleansing, which very much can be laid in this case, are no better than the charges of genocide -- simply more accurate.

    The idea of residential schooling, I'll remind you, wasn't to kill off the entire native population -- although many of the individuals actually administering the system clearly didn't care if that turned out to be the case -- it was to assimilate them into Canadian society. In the view of the people who ultimately designed the system, beginning with the Davin report, was to "civilize" Canada's aboriginal people. In many cases, this clearly meant anglicizing them.

    So thus while actus reas under the (actually inaccurate) international convention could be argued to be in place, mens rea -- the intent, as explicity specified by the convention -- actually was not.

    I've actually been doing some research to try and verify the tuburculosis claims, as well, and I've found some interesting things.

    First off, there is no question that there was a liberal mixing of malfeasance, incompetence and neglect on the part of both churches and the government. Many warnings were issued about the conditions in the schools vis a vis tuburculosis. However, instructions were issued to prevent the spread of disease.

    Consider the Departmental regulations forwarded to the Catholic Bishop of Westminster in 1889. Among them:

    -Children were to be inspected for lice or vermin, and cared for if present.
    -Children were not be allowed to wear clothes that were in a good state of repair or clean.
    -Children were to wash three times a day.
    -School buildings and dormitories were to be well-ventilated, "scrupulously clean", and disinfectants used liberally.
    -Children who fell ill were to be cared for in a sick room.
    -Children were to be taught what to do in event of a fire.
    -Children were to be well fed.

    Departmental regulations were even issued as to the discipline of students at the schools.

    Sadly, however, many of these rules were obviously not adhered to, and the Department of Indian Affairs did nothing about it, which is shameful.

    I'm watching Annet's film Unrepentant right now. I think I'm starting to develop a fairly clear vision of why he was defrocked, and I suspect that it did, in fact, have a lot to do with his open pulpit. I can't help but imagine the murder accusation against Alfred Caldwell from the pulpit, while his daughter sat in the church, was probably treated as the "last straw".

    If you don't allow the RCMP to investigate the gravesites, then I'm concerned that you may be the ones helping to conceal the truth -- namely, that the graves in question (I have little doubt they exist) aren't really mass graves, but unmarked individual graves.

    You won't hear me granting your claims any undue credence until you've allowed an investigation. Even if not by the RCMP, then it should be by someone credible.

  3. Hi ... I'm afraid I don't have much time to go into this just now, but I felt I must help to clear the term "genocide" up.

    "Genocide is the intent to destroy them in their entirety, by wiping out their bloodline." Patrick Ross

    Genocide does NOT have to include the killing of ANYONE. So long as the INTENT to destroy in whole or in part is there (which it was, re: canadian residential schools and american boarding schools) and any one of the following 5 elements .... as written by Raphael Lemkin.

    Here is the definition of Genocide:

    The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

    Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide:

    1) the mental element, meaning the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such", and

    2) the physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called "genocide."

    -----------------------------------Convention on the Prevention and
    Punishment of Genocide

    "Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;

    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


    Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:

    (a) Genocide;

    (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

    (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

    (d) Attempt to commit genocide;

    (e) Complicity in genocide. "


    It is a crime to plan or incite genocide, even before killing starts, and to aid or abet genocide: Criminal acts include conspiracy, direct and public incitement, attempts to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide.

    Punishable Acts The following are genocidal acts when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group’s existence:

    Killing members of the group includes direct killing and actions causing death.

    Causing serious bodily or mental harm includes inflicting trauma on members of the group through widespread torture, rape, sexual violence, forced or coerced use of drugs, and mutilation.

    Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.

    Prevention of births includes involuntary sterilization, forced abortion, prohibition of marriage, and long-term separation of men and women intended to prevent procreation.

    Forcible transfer of children may be imposed by direct force or by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or other methods of coercion. The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as persons under the age of 18 years.


    Genocidal acts NEED NOT KILL OR CAUSE THE DEATH OF MEMBERS OF A GROUP. Causing serious bodily or mental harm, prevention of births and transfer of children are acts of genocide when committed as part of a policy to destroy a group’s existence.


    The law protects four groups - national, ethnical, racial or religious groups.

    A national group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by a common country of nationality or national origin.

    An ethnical group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common cultural traditions, language or heritage.

    A racial group means a set of individuals whose identity is defined by physical characteristics.

    A religious group is a set of individuals whose identity is defined by common religious creeds, beliefs, doctrines, practices, or rituals.

    Key Terms

    The crime of genocide has two elements: intent and action. “Intentional” means purposeful. Intent can be proven directly from statements or orders. But more often, it must be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated acts.

    Intent is different from motive. Whatever may be the motive for the crime (land expropriation, national security, territorrial integrity, etc.), if the perpetrators commit acts intended to destroy a group, even part of a group, it is genocide.

    The phrase "in whole or in part" is important. Perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group. Destruction of only part of a group (such as its educated members, or members living in one region) is also genocide. Most authorities require intent to destroy a substantial number of group members – mass murder. But an individual criminal may be guilty of genocide even if he kills only one person, so long as he knew he was participating in a larger plan to destroy the group.

  4. All the same, one has to look deeper into the intent behind Genocide in order to justify laying a charge of genocide.

    For example, Adolph Hitler certainly couldn't have intended to kill all the Jews, but only those within the Reich.

    His intent, clearly, being to eliminate the Jewish population utterly and entirely within that geographic space.

    All the same, you cannot have genocide without killing. You can have ethnic cleansing without killing, but not genocide.

    This is where it's important to note that the so-called "genocide convention" is a complete misnomer. It doesn't merely apply to genocide, but to varying different varieties of crimes against humanity.

    All the same, intent still has to be established, and it can be established beyond doubt that those who planned and administered the Residential School system did not intend to destroy -- in whole or in part -- Canada's Aboriginals. Regulations and guidelines were in place to prevent it.

    The Residential Schools simply do not qualify as genocide -- they qualify as ethnic cleansing. Once again, for those not paying attention, this is not one bit better than genocide.

    But let's talk for a few moments about the difference between intent and motive. That difference simply doesn't support the narrative you're trying to hard to promote.

    Whatever the motives may be -- the motive provided by the standard account was twofold: first off, to satisfy treaty requirements that all native reserves be provided with schools, and secondly, the assimilation of aboriginals into Canadian society (naturally, on terms Canadian society saw fit) -- to suggest that the motive was to eliminate aboriginals so their land could be "stolen", most historians would remind you there was no need to steal the land. Treaties were in place to ensure the sharing of the land (although let's not pretend that the Canadian government has always adhered to the terms of the treaties; In fact, the example of Residential Schools proves they did not).

    This, of course, all circles back to the Aboriginal revisionist account, which insists that, because there are no documents that explicitly state the intent of the aboriginal schools was to destroy (in whole or in part) aboriginals this is some how proof that this is what the intent was -- despite the fact that the historical records we do have on hand largely demonstrate otherwise.

    What the historical record does support is intent to eliminate the aboriginal way of life -- once again, an act of ethnic cleansing (also covered under the genocide convention although it is explicitly not genocide), not of genocide.

    Unless you think you can somehow prove the intent was to eliminate -- in whole or part -- Canada's aboriginals. You'll have to argue against not only the historical record, but virtually all the documentation on record.

  5. The intent was to assimilate Indigenous people as Canadians, and eliminate Indigenous Peoples as Peoples.

    IE, the intent was genocide.
    The purp[ose was to gain control of the land by destructiuon of the culture.
    This genocide is still in progress in Canada:

    Canada insists that Indigenous Peoples renounce any further Aboriginal Rights when they sign a 'modern' treaty. That this is illegal in international law doesn't seem to matter to Canada.
    Some sign, some refuse and if they refuse they get nothing- ie, they are starved out just like in the old days.
    It's still genocide and it is still the primary objective of Canada's policies.

  6. If you take a close look at the historical records regarding the conceptualization and administration of the residential schools, you would see that the intent was actually very different.

    This is a historical case of something established with ill-conceived best intentions, then gone horribly wrong.

    The schools were meant to operate in a fashion similar to the British boarding schools that many of those who dreamed up the Residential School system had themselves attended. They thought it was in the best interests of aboriginals -- they also thought wrong.

    There were strict standards set for the quality of education the students were to receive, the quality of care -- including strict standards for nutrition -- and standards set for the manner in which students were allowed to be disciplined.

    However, the government also established a per-head stipulation on funding. Churches that had outstanding needs in terms of maintainance on their other properties took this as an opportunity to recruit students -- often aggressively pursuing the same students -- then undercut the standard of education and care in order to keep the extra funds for their own purposes.

    This is something that never should have been tolerated, but the administrators of these schools proved quite adept at obfuscating these things, and intimidating the students in order to prevent them from divulging the abuses to the government.

    There were certainly those who intended to "kill the Indian in the child", but these people did not represent the mainstream of thought within the residential school system.

    Your conclusions are based on assumptions that the historical record doesn't support. I'm truly sorry to disappoint you, but you can't demand that everyone share the specific depth of your outrage, even if the outrage itself very much is shared.

  7. More than one credible person without nothing to gain have witnessed events.

    Without any physical proof - any idiot with a brain knows what the Church and government thought of natives back then, and still do today.

    Thousands of children were murdered because of the colour of their skin by deliberate spreading of disease and by acts of violence.

    Why the long-winded discussion about the definition of genocide? Accept that the church and the Canadian government are responsible for mass murder and spend your time bringing attention to it!


Post your comments, and join the discussion!

Be aware that spam posts and purile nonsense will not be tolerated, although purility within constructive commentary is encouraged.

All comments made by Kevron are deleted without being read. Also, if you begin your comment by saying "I know you'll just delete this", it will be deleted. Guaranteed. So don't be a dumbass.