Still Unreconciled in Canada: A Century of Residential School Horrors

We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths….Some were as young as three years old.” –   Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First NationKukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir, May 27, 2021[1]

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The discovery of an unmarked children’s graveyard on the territory of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation has raised awareness about a massive crime against Indigenous people, as well as profound doubts about the issues of our collective past.[2]

In total, 215 small bodies believed to be attendees of an Indian residential school located in the city of Kamloops in the Canadian province of British Columbia. This finding was sadly not much of a surprise.[3]

The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada focused on Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. Fully 3,200 deaths were identified on the Register of Confirmed Deaths of Named Residential School Students and the Register of Confirmed Deaths of Unnamed Residential School Students. It identified a high rate of death among First Nations children in residential schools versus their white counterparts. It also said that failure to establish and enforce adequate standards combined with inadequate financing contributed to the high layers of death. Plenty of students and parents of students are to credit for the findings.[4]

Still, viewing an actual site of concealed carnage hit home for far too many in the Native community. Using the technology of ground penetrating radar, other such grim discoveries will no doubt reveal themselves.

But in the immediate aftermath, the citizens of Canada have to adjust to some difficult questions. How fundamentally did we violate the rights of the peoples of this land before we came here? Was it a full blown genocide? Does the same racism that existed at that time still present itself in different forms and with comparable results?

With just days before we mark National Indigenous People’s Day, the Global Research News Hour attempts to pull aside the curtain concealing a collective menace no one wishes to see, confront the beast, and hopefully involve Indigenous people and settlers righting their relationship and finding a respectful path forward.

In our first half hour, we are joined by Professor of Native Studies Niigaan Sinclair who lays out the argument for referring to residential school legacy in Canada as indeed being a genocide. We next speak to Professor of Political Science David Macdouglas about the origin of these schools and whether they came back in other institutional forms. In our second half hour we speak with Kevin Annett, a man who blew the whistle on residential school abuses and death nearly 3 decades ago, and try to ascertain what aspects of it are concealed even today. Finally, researcher Richard Sanders shares his understanding of how a fictive vision helped conceal the atrocity of the events at these residential schools for over a century.

For listeners with affects from residential schools triggered by the subject matter, you can access emotional and crisis referral support by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1 866 925 4419

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair is Anishinaabe and an associate Professor in Native studies at the University of Manitoba. He is a regular commentator on Indigenous issues for CTV, CBC, APTN and The Guardian. He is also a regular columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. He is also the son of TRC chair Murray Sinclair.

David Macdonald is a Political Science professor at the University of Guelph. He focuses on Comparative Indigenous Politics in Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, United States. He has worked in the areas of International Relations, American foreign policy, Holocaust and genocide studies, and critical race theory. He is author of the book The Sleeping Giant Awakens: Genocide, Indian Residential Schools, and the Challenge of Conciliation.

Kevin Annett was a former clergyman of the United Church of Canada. He heard multiple stories of abuses in residential schools and reported it resulting in his dismissal. He has made the movie Unrepentant: Kevin Annett and Canada’s Genocide and authored the book Murder by Decree. He has since co-founded International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State.  

Richard Sanders is the coordinator of the Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade, and has a history of involvement in anti-war activism that spans three decades. He is also a researcher and the publisher and editor of Press For Conversion Magazine. In 2017 he released issue #69 dealing with what he calls Fictive Canada: Indigenous Slaves and the Captivating Narratives.

(Global Research News Hour Episode 321)

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Notes:

  1. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc press release (May 27, 2021); tkemlups.ca/wp-content/uploads/05-May-27-2021-TteS-MEDIA-RELEASE.pdf
  2. ibid
  3. ibid
  4. Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Volume 4 (2015), pg 1,2, Published for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by McGill-Queen’s University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Chicago; ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Volume_4_Missing_Children_English_Web.pdf

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