September 30th will be National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This year it should be a day of celebration.
Parliament declared September 30 a holiday soon after the nation was convulsed by the shocking claim that 215 residential students had been somehow killed and secretly buried, with the forced help of children “as young as six” in an apple orchard on the Kamloops school grounds.
As a result, the first Truth and Reconciliation Day was a somber occasion, as even more sensational claims of “missing children” and secret burials staggered the nation. Churches were burned by outraged vigilantes, and many people – especially Roman Catholics – lived in fear and shame. Catholic hate crimes skyrocketed 260%. Flags were lowered, and tears were shed. Parliament even passed a shocking motion – declaring that residential schools were to be “described” as genocide – based on these unvetted claims of secret burials, unmarked graves and missing children.
The mood of the country was dark, as Canadians waited anxiously for excavations and exhumations that would prove or disprove the truth of these horrible claims of “25,000, and maybe more” of these “missing” children.
But the excavations that were carried out proved the exact opposite: there were no bodies, no secret burials. These hearsay stories about murderous priests burying children in secrecy were simply untrue – just conspiracy theories and urban legends. Most readers are aware of the recent excavations at Pine Creek, Manitoba that yielded no human remains. But most are not aware that there have been many other excavations as well – at Brantford, Shubenecadie, Camsell, Kupers Island, Grouard, McGill University and elsewhere that have all proven that there were no graves where stories running rampant in the communities said there were. In every one of those cases, community residents were absolutely convinced that there were graves there. Excavation proved that there weren’t.
The original Kamloops claim was based mainly on the faulty opinion of a radar operator who had neglected to check for previous excavations in the apple orchard area she searched. Had she done so she would almost certainly have found that what she thought might be graves was almost certainly a 1924 septic trench installation.
The only other “evidence” for the Kamloops claim, and all of the other copy-cat claims that followed, were hearsay stories that had circulated in the communities. We now know that most of those stories had been actively promoted by a defrocked minister by the name of Kevin Annett. His wild stories of murderous, secretly-burying priests had thoroughly infected indigenous communities. Respected investigative reporter, Terry Glavin, exposed this charlatan years ago.
For reasons that are now hard to understand, indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians fell for these baseless stories. One reason was the fact that both the mainstream media and our own political leaders found it convenient to pretend to believe the false stories. Glavin does a takedown of both in his brave National Post “Year of the Graves”.
The good news is that it is becoming clearer by the day that these stories of “missing children” who were somehow killed and secretly buried under sinister circumstances are, and have always been……stories. Just stories. Like the game of “Telephone” they have proliferated and been exaggerated over the years – taking on a life of their own – simply because no one has held the storytellers to account. No one has asked “Where is the evidence?” Our legacy media, which is normally quick to question most claims, seems to blindly accept any indigenous claim.
To date our own tax-subsidized legacy media seems hardly to have noticed that the “missing children” claims are falling apart. But the international media has certainly noticed. There are now dozens of international news stories that ask the same question – How could Canada have fallen for such obviously false stories in the first place?
Since that first grim Reconciliation Day much has been learned. The good news is that no one was killed and secretly buried. There was no Canadian genocide.
And that is why this year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or “Orange Shirt” should be a day of celebration.
And, by the way, about that orange shirt that was so famously taken away from an indigenous student? The staff member who took it away was almost certainly one of the many indigenous people who worked at the school. It was taken away for purely practical reasons – no racism there.
But what about the thousands of “missing children” we were told about?
Good news there too. Kimberly Murray, special adviser to the Minister of Justice, told the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples on 21 March 2023 that there are no missing children: “The children aren’t missing; they’re buried in the cemeteries.”
In fact, Murray went on to advise indigenous people who are looking for lost burial sites of long-dead ancestors to consult ancestry.com. There is now a $60,000,000 building being constructed at the University of Manitoba, where U of M staff designated as National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) employees will essentially perform that function for burial-site seekers: they will help them with the ancestry.com process. At a cost of $60,000,000 for the building alone!
So yes, there are millions of indigenous and non-indigenous deceased who lie in unmarked graves from coast to coast simply because their burial places have gone untended. Some of them went to residential schools, some to day schools, and some to not school at all. Most died from diseases of the day. While sad, there is absolutely nothing sinister about that.
It is now almost 30 years since Prime Minister Jean Chrétien established the Residential School Healing Fund. Since then Canada has lived through three decades of residential school angst, including 2 1/2 years of feverish searches for phantom graves. Billions have been paid out in compensation to victims, spent on “reconciliation” programs from coast to coast, and pointless cemetery searches. Canada has acknowledged the residential school abuses, provided compensation and apologies. It is now time to finally move past this.
The fact that Canada has committed no genocide is good news for everyone. It is particularly good news for indigenous youth who now know that their ancestors were not crime victims. The wise indigenous leaders should send packing the genocide hustlers who have misinformed their youth in order to make money, or to advance their careers.
Canadians can use this national reconciliation day as an opportunity to move beyond the sad burdens of yesterday. Searching for old graves is a nice hobby for retired people, but it is not something entire communities – and particularly young people – should spend much time doing. The truth is that there has never been a better time and place for indigenous young people with some talent and education than today’s Canada. A hardworking, young indigenous person can have almost any job or career they want. Banks, CBC, the government and private industry are eager to hire them. It’s time to get out of the grievance graveyard.
So, it is good news that the stories about thousands of indigenous children meeting an awful fate are not true. This Truth and Reconciliation Day should be a day of celebration for all Canadians – indigenous and non-indigenous.
And a time to move forward.
Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy