The case of Jim McMurtry is now well known to Canadians. He is the Abbotsford schoolteacher who told his class the truth about the claim that 215 indigenous students had been killed and secretly buried at Kamloops Indian Residential School—and was fired for it.
He said that any students who died at the school had likely succumbed to natural causes, mainly tuberculosis. Students who had heard wild stories about children tortured by priests and left in the snow to die were outraged. They complained, and McMurtry was promptly escorted from the classroom in disgrace, placed on indefinite leave, and subsequently fired.
Eminent writers such as Conrad Black and Barbara Kay have already commented in detail about the outrageous injustice of a schoolteacher being fired for telling the truth. I agree with them, and have nothing useful to add in that regard.
However, there is one event which has largely escaped comment that is highly relevant to the case. That is the parliamentary motion unanimously passed on Oct. 27, 2022, equating residential schools with genocide.
The foundation for that motion was the Kamloops claim (and subsequent copycat claims) of about 215 sinister deaths and secret burials. The “crime” of McMurtry was refusing to accept those claims as fact. Parliament’s passage of the genocide motion implicitly gave the school board that fired McMurtry permission to do so. It sent a clear signal that the genocide claim must be accepted without question. The motion was passed with no study and no debate.
Parliament’s genocide motion also gives international human rights abusers, like communist China, a perfect defence against any legitimate criticism we might make about their atrocious treatment of the Uyghurs or Tibetans. It is a blood libel against every Canadian soldier who fought to defend our freedom, every important Canadian historical figure, and all of our ancestors. It declares them all to be genocide-complicit.
But it also smears every MP and PM who came before them with the “genocide” label. Think of it: Sir Wilfred Laurier, Lester Pearson, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien—all indicted as genocide-complicit.
So, with all that, perhaps we should take a look at what Jim McMurtry actually told his students. He said that students who died at the school mainly died of disease, likely tuberculosis. A quick check of the death certificates on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation list of the 51 children who died at the school (available online) proves exactly that. They died of disease, a few as a result of accidents; some died at home, and some died at a hospital. Here’s one example: “48. Theophile Dick Billy (1941/4/22)d Royal Inland Hospital, Kamloops, DIA Inquiry held.”
There is no mystery there, or with any of the other 50 sad deaths. Most were buried on their home reserves. In every case their deaths were properly recorded and they would have received a proper Catholic funeral, with family present. In Theophile’s case, an inquiry was held into his death.
There is no credible evidence that any residential school student died under sinister circumstances, went missing and was never found, or was buried secretly. We know where they are buried. And there is no credible evidence that anyone is buried in the “apple orchard” at the Kamloops School—and especially no credible evidence that any residential school students were buried late at night with the forced help of 6-year-olds. The fact that many people lie in untended graves that became “unmarked” with the passage of time is nobody’s fault.
The children who died came from reserves with shockingly high tuberculosis death rates. Their deaths were not caused by residential schools. As Dr. Peter Bryce, chief medical examiner said at the time, the children arrived at the schools already infected, where they infected others. If residential schools had never been built, they would still have died.
In short, there is no credible evidence that there was anything sinister about any of the 51 deaths, or any of the 51 burials.
So, Jim McMurtry told his students the truth. Indigenous children were not tortured by priests and left to die in the snow. They died of natural causes, and were given proper burials. Parliament’s implied message to McMurtry’s school board was to force teachers to disregard the truth—and teach nonsense.
But some of our “leaders” aren’t content with the egregious genocide motion, and want to take things even further. They even want to prevent articles like the one you are reading now from being published. MP Leah Gazan, with the approval of Indigenous Affairs Minister Marc Miller, wants legislation that criminalizes any questioning of the secret burial stories, calling it “denialism.”
Parliament must reconsider. They have made a serious error. At the very least, evidence must be presented, and the claims about murder and secret burials at residential schools must be thoroughly examined.
Residential Schools were an attempt to educate, not to commit genocide.
Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy