Trudeau promoted a fake atrocity while ignoring a real one

The residential schools “mass grave” story was misleading, but Trudeau used it to denigrate Canada and calls Canadians “racist.”

At the same time he abstained from a vote to call the extermination of millions of Uighurs a genocide, to appease the Chinese Communist Party.

Like U.S. President Biden, Trudeau excused China through cultural relativism (e.g. “different norms”), while at the same time accusing his own country of “systemic racism.”

Trudeau called residential schools “shameful” for teaching native children to deny their culture, but turns a blind eye to China when it does the same to Uighur children.

In June of 2021, the mainstream media in Canada reported on 751 unmarked graves. 215 of which are alleged to be the graves of children who attended a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia (later the number was reduce to 200). The story spread all over the world, making frequent reference to the Canada’s and the church’s “cultural genocide” of native peoples.

Indigenous residential school records can be destroyed ...

Most importantly for this discussion, the crimes that Trudeau accuses the Roman Catholic church of vis-à-vis residential schools — namely, cultural genocide — is exactly what’s going on in East Turkestan and right now, but on a far larger scale and in a far more egregious manner than anything that occurred in Canada: actual mass murder and atrocities are taking place against the Uighurs. Nothing like that occurred in Canada. The use of the word “genocide” in a Canadian context can certainly be questioned, but not in the case of the Uighurs.

Trudeau’s position on the Uighurs is cowardly: he refuses to condemn a real genocide taking place, even when it came up for a vote in Parliament.

In particular, it’s striking that the main crime that the Roman Catholic Church is accused of — taking native children from their families, forbidding them to speak their native tongue, and in effect erasing their cultural heritage — is exactly what’s happening with Uighur children right now:

“Thousands of Uighur children appear to have been left without parents as their mothers or fathers were forced into Chinese internment camps, prison and other detention facilities, according to evidence from government documents in Xinjiang.”–wA92rSZ8DYkZ1R19DFgVEN7U

Additionally, about a million Uighur men have been exterminated and a million more adults placed in re-education facilities in order to erase their religion and culture.

The moral ambiguity of residential schools

Although many former students have testified against the residential schools, famous native Canadian playwright Thompson Highway is among a few native people who credit residential schools with giving him a good education. reports that “as Catholic churches in Canada are vandalized or burned down, it is worth remembering that two leading First Nations people have credited their residential schools for their success in life. They include world-renowned Cree playwright Tomson Highway and the late Inuvik Dene band chief Cece Hodgson-McCauley.

“In addition, a number of people have written accounts to the now-retired Senator Lynn Beyak, testifying to having had positive experiences or having heard first-hand accounts of good experiences at the residential schools.”

In other words, residential schools have a mixed legacy, but only one side of the story is told. According to one researcher of church history in Canada, “Indian residential schools were not the forces of cultural destruction they are widely portrayed to have been, and the government would be wrong to compensate thousands of former students who allege the schools cost them their families, language and heritage.”

Although few would dispute that abuses occurred at residential schools, according to the findings of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission into the matter (, it’s also the case that residential schools have been portrayed very one-sidedly by the Canadian media and current federal government. This negative portrayal ignores the sincere and good intentions of many of the educators at the time. Their positive legacy is now lost amid the testimonies of sexual abuse.

It should be added that Truth and Reconciliation hearings in Canada were modelled after the same in South Africa, which allowed complainants to air accusations and grievances freely. It was deemed unnecessary to have a legal defense for the accused because guilt was already established. What mattered was the healing process for the alleged survivors. The punishment, if there was one, was is the public shaming. Contrition by the perpetrator (or representative) is expected. This process can be complicated by the factor of monetary compensation for the complainants.

It could be argued that Maoist “struggle sessions” are a crude example of the same phenomenon, of collective accusation in a public setting for the purpose of airing a shared grievance — except that the accused is in the room and must confess. Truth and Reconciliation hearings are far more civil, for which reason some commentators say they don’t go far enough, and essentially allow the perpetrators to go unpunished (e.g.,
Panchen Lama during the struggle (thamzing) session 1964.jpg
Maoist struggle session

The condemnation of residential schools as “shameful” by Justin Trudeau deliberately disregards the complex moral ambiguity of applying modern standards to historical practices and erasing all context for political purposes.

Trudeau and others have used the word “genocide” to describe past treatment of native peoples in Canada. Journalist Candace Malcolm asks, “Is Canada guilty of genocide?” Her answer is that “Not too long ago, the answer from the perspective of international law was ‘no.’ In fact, it use to be considered shocking to hear this phrase uttered in the Canadian context. International scholars and legal experts use to urge caution with such a loaded and political word. Canada’s early history is filled with brutality and hardship, there’s no doubt about it.

“The 18th and 19th centuries were defined by wars, atrocities, constant fighting, constant killing over land and resources. And Canada was no different. But suddenly all of the context has been stripped away and we now look at events in the past and judge them as if they were being carried out today. The most loaded political word ‘genocide’ – it gets thrown around now, meaning something bad that happened in the past.”

Malcolm further explains in her video why “it’s incredibly reckless and disingenuous to say that Canada is a genocidal country.”

I would just add that from a Christian perspective, there is a mandate to evangelize and convert unbelievers to the faith, called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). This was never seen as anything but a good and necessary act, for the benefit for the converted. Life was seen as short and death always immanent. To ensure that the soul went to Heaven was paramount — and still is, in the view of millions of Christians worldwide. The point is that the Christians who ran the schools and supported them felt they were doing a virtuous thing for the good of the children. They felt that leaving the children uneducated and unchurched was a moral wrong.

While secular Leftists look down upon Christian evangelization as invasive, presumptuous, and even evil — Leftists themselves are uninhibited — even aggressive — in spreading their own ‘religion’ through education, politics, and entertainment. Children are now schooled from an early age in Leftist ideals, such as feminism, socialism, transgenderism, anti-whiteness, anti-capitalism, critical race theory, and “diversity.” The real antipathy towards Christianity by Leftists stems from viewing it as a competing worldview, one they must displace with their own.

Leftist children’s books. See

One could also add that Christian educators of native children saw it as a moral duty to help native peoples succeed in the modern world, through education. Residential schools existed for that purpose and were seen in a positive light for this reason at the time. The children were moved from wilderness reservations to towns such as Kamloops because their reservations were so remote and no teachers could be found to go to them. This practice continued up until the 1970s at which time the number of teachers willing to live on reservations increased enough to allow that.

The educators of the 19th century could hardly imagine that their efforts would be viewed in such a negative light more than a century later. The negative judgement of them today stems from a radically different set of prevailing values today – values that issue from Leftist progressivism.

The Leftist modus operandi is to demonize everyone in the past and position progressives as morally superior. As Alice Stuckey explains, “Leftism is not just against traditional religion; it has replaced it. It is its own religion. And, like all religions, it excludes adherence to any competing value system. It is its religious nature that has made its believers so fiercely defensive. It is why they cannot stand disagreement. Those who disagree are not just wrong, they’re blasphemers, heretics and apostates who must be dealt with accordingly.” This would also explain why Leftist are highly motivated to chastise Christianity as evil.

Residential schools and past leaders that supported them, including Canada’ first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, have been turned into straw men and their statues torn down.

John A. MacDonald statue, beheaded
How Can We Learn From The Past If We Erase History ...
Confederate statue toppled; quote from 1984

Thomas Sewell’s analysis of this tendency among Leftists is to refer to them as “the anointed” in his book The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (1996). In it, Sewell refers to “self-congratulatory assumptions held by political and intellectual elites.” According to his analysis, minority racial groups are taught to see themselves as victims and “the anointed as their rescuers.” This does neither party any good.

Thomas Sowell quote: For the anointed, traditions are ...
“The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy” by Thomas Sowell

It was thus in the political interests of the anointed — in this case, Trudeau’s Liberal Party and the Leftist media — to frame the Kamloops B.C. graves as evidence of wrongdoing. The false impression that there were “mass graves” at the site was particularly misleading. For example, CNN ran this sensational and misleading headline:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-77.png

The graves (if they were graves?) were incorrectly labelled as evidence of “mass murder” by at least one source: It’s not a far leap from the loaded phrases “cultural genocide” and “mass graves” to “mass murder.” But the allegation is completely unsupportable.

“The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, The Toronto Star, and numerous other media outlets all ran stories claiming that a “mass grave” had been discovered, a term never used in the original report. The Times ran the headline “‘Horrible History’: Mass Grave of Indigenous Children Reported in Canada,” while the Toronto Star printed the headline “Mass impact from discovery of mass grave.” [see full article below]

Whose graves or precisely how they died still remains unknown. If they are the graves of children, they likely were buried one by one as they died from tuberculosis (TB), which by 1867 “was the leading cause of death in Canada.” ( “By the dawn of the 19th century, tuberculosis had killed one in seven of all people that had ever lived, more than any other illness … no one was spared: rich, poor, young, old.”

'Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem & Mourning Photography from The Thanatos Archive'
Childhood death from TB was common
Overcrowding in tenements was a contributing factor to the spread of disease.

TB took the lives of a lot of children, both white and native. I recall visiting a cemetery in Toronto, from the 19th century, where one can find the graves of numerous white children who died of TB. The fact that native children died from TB is no fault of those who ran the residential schools at the time. Germs theory was developed in the 1860s by Pasteur, but the public health protocols we have today were not fully developed until the 20th century. As for the graves being unmarked, it’s possible there were crosses above the graves made of wood that rotted away over time.

Two archeologists with experience “working with ground-penetrating radar, including at burial ground” penned an article examining these allegations in detail. They said “there is no real mystery over what the cause of death was in the majority of cases at residential schools. It is well-established that influenza and tuberculosis were responsible for the majority of deaths.

“Tuberculosis predates European settlement in the Western Hemisphere, and has caused periodic outbreaks that killed large numbers of people (especially children). Also during the residential school era were four deadly influenza pandemics that reached Canada from overseas, mostly notably Spanish flu in 1918–1919. Besides this, there were also deadly influenza pandemics in Canada in 1890, 1957, and 1968.

“Each of these pandemics killed thousands of people in Canada. The Spanish flu alone killed an estimated 50,000 Canadians, most of them young people. It was these influenza pandemics and tuberculosis outbreaks that caused the vast majority of deaths at residential schools, which medical treatments of the time were mostly powerless to prevent … [but] of course, many of the people commentating the loudest on historic graveyards aren’t actually interested in unearthing the past. They’re interested in pitting people against each other in the present.” (Ibid).

“Mass grave” allegation untrue

Trudeau used the graves as an opportunity to further denigrate Canada as “racist nation” and to condemn Christian churches in Canada for alleged abuses in residential schools. The headlines of all mainstream media newspapers and television stations in Canada — and many outside Canada — repeated the condemnations in a chorus.

But the allegation of “mass graves” and “mass murder” are definitely untrue. As True North reports, the media got several things wrong in their reporting: “Six things the media got wrong about the graves found near Residential Schools.” [see full article below] There were no “mass graves”, nothing was actually dug up, the technology used to scan the ground is not precise, and the story remains unconfirmed.

The radar technology used to asses this is imprecise:

“In her first public appearance since the May 27 press release which sparked global headlines, at a June 4 press conference Chief Rosanne Casimir stated: “this is not a mass grave. These are preliminary findings. We will be sharing the written report in the middle of the month.” No other new details were provided, but the confirmation that there was no mass grave should have prompted a media reckoning other false and inflammatory coverage, but did nothing of sort. To date, the New York Times and other media, including the Toronto Star, have not issued corrections to their initial false reporting.” (Ibid)

“Former chief Sophie Pierre told Global News: “there’s no discovery, we knew it was there, it’s a graveyard. The fact there are graves inside a graveyard shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.” Brad Salzburg asks a good question: “Why then has the Trudeau government vehemently positioned the findings as an act of mass murder perpetrated by the Church?”

A MacLean’s article speaks of the graves as evidence of the “horrifying legacy of Canada’s residential school system.” Yet this article — like many others — fails to explain how the graves (if they are graves) are evidence of anything other than a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak, common in the 19th century. Millions died of it worldwide. Young children are particular vulnerable. White and native children died of it: TB does not recognize race. It is still a “top ten causes of death in children worldwide” (in so-called developing nations). Prior to the 20th century, about half of all people who died prematurely were children.

Despite these facts about childhood mortality and TB, Trudeau used the graves as an opportunity to publicly asked the Pope to apologize (even though he’d already done so in 2009: Trudeau referred to the graves as evidence of Canada’s genocidal past, despite the lack of a clear case for that assertion.

Church fires

The promotion of the idea that a genocide has occurred, as well as the anti-church sentiment by Trudeau and the legacy media, inflamed the political situation in Canada — and not without consequence. It led to radicals aligned with the “indigenous sovereignty” and anarchist movement (e.g., Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Black Bloc) to burn down numerous churches. In total, 58 churches were set ablaze or otherwise vandalized in what should properly be called acts of domestic terrorism.

The RCMP likely know who committed these acts of arson, but perhaps due to the political climate, only one arrest has been made out of 58 cases of arson, as of Aug. 12, 2021.

Map of where politically motivated arson of churches occurred in 2021, by True North

The Prime Minister’s closest advisor and friend, Gerald Butts, called these criminal acts “understandable.”
Trudeau himself echoed that sentiment, saying “it is fully understandable given the shameful history that we are all becoming more and more aware of . . .”

True North reports that, “While many Canadians have condemned these heinous crimes, a number of activists, academics and public figures have excused the recent church burnings and acts of vandalism.”

All of this coincided with Canada Day 2021, but rather than celebrate Canada Day, Trudeau use it to indulge in national hand-wringing and collective guilt. He even borrowed a line from Michelle Obama used to castigate men by saying that Canada can “do better.” To further indicate how much he is on the right side of history (and how much the church and “old stock Canadians” are on the wrong side) Trudeau then “announced a $3.3 million national ad campaign to lecture “non-racialized Canadian middle-aged adults” on how Canada is racist.” 

To underscore how misguided the arsonists are, they ended up burning the churches of Coptic Christians from the Middle East, and Vietnamese Christians — groups that got to Canada long after the residential schools and whose denominations had nothing to do with them.

“Our church was more than a building. It brought together a diverse congregation of Coptic, Eritrean, Iraqi, and Lebanese Orthodox believers,” the church said in a statement.

It reminds me of when in 2020, anarchists vandalized the statue of an anti-slavery abolitionist — because it depicted a white man. They also desecrated the statue erected by slaves to honour Abraham Lincoln.

Copts have faced persecution for their faith before, in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they’ve been murdered and persecuted by Islamists. That’s why they came to Canada, to be free of religious persecution – but now they find it here also, at the hands of radical Leftists.

There’s a certain irony in the fact that the arson was perpetrated by a young brainwashed white woman steeped in race ideology, but the victims, in this case, are so-called “people of colour.” It’s reminiscent of white Democrats cheering on the torching of black neighbourhoods by white Antifa members. Black business owners lost everything because of white liberals who naively thought they were helping black people by endorsing race riots.

Church burnings, it can be argued, are a hate crime against Christianity, no different than the eighty or so church burnings in France by jihadists. The authorities in Canada should treat church burnings as a hate crime – which it is. Because of the political climate, they are being far too timid, like the police in Rotherham UK who were afraid to arrest rapists of children because the rapists were Pakistani and the police were afraid of being called racists.

They are afraid to speak out. Those police officers who do speak out – for example, saying there’s no “systemic racism” in the RCMP, have been forced to apologize or lose their jobs. “Systemic” implies it’s embedded in the laws – but all the laws in Canada explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race.

Activism journalism

The fact that the alleged graves were never proved to be graves, let along “mass graves” (implying mass murder), did not stop the mainstream media from running with an unconfirmed story. This is because it fit the Leftist narrative that journalists have been trained to promote. This narrative, now familiar to most Canadians, vilifies residential schools and calls for atonement for Canada’s alleged racist past, and for national reckoning. As noted above, Leftists denigrate those in the past without trying to understand historical context. That’s why they’re intent on destroying historic statues and re-writing history.

Activist journalism, which is now increasingly popular, has much in common with political propaganda. For example, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who initiated the controversial 1619 Project (which seeks to falsely frame the United States as a genocidal nations founded on slavery) says ““all journalism is activism.” Jonathan Turley said this journalist activism seeks “to frame rather than report the news.”

Teen Vogue magazine, one of the Leftist media sources that ran the story, open admits in the byline that the story is part of a “series in which we unearth history not told through a white, cisheteropatriarchal lens.” For those unfamiliar with “woke” newspeak “cishetero” means heterosexual and “patriarchal” is a pejorative term used by feminists. [See Fiamengo Files for a discussion of feminism:] The Teen Vogue byline unwittingly exposes the covert ideological underpinnings of similar condemnations of the West and the church in the legacy media.

To show how far this kind of Leftist rhetoric can be taken, one professor now claims that the Islamic terror attack of 9/11 was in fact really about destroying the “heteropatriarchal capitalistic systems” supporting the United States and Western powers.

What’s happening to education and journalism in the West has been compared to the Chinese Cultural Revolution: “There is a Cultural Revolution taking place in America today. The stated goal: to purge capitalism and traditional American culture from society. Leftist educational curricula in schools … deliver the dogmatic ideology of the revolution.” This includes historical revisionism such as the framing of Canada as also founded on genocide (even if that’s not the case).

A good statement on the rise of activism journalism and how it’s inconsistent with real journalism is provided by Bari Weiss, who quit The New York Times for this reason:

By the time young adults get to journalism school they’re already indoctrinated in a worldview, which views the West as fundamentally wrong, and sees everything reductively, in terms of race and gender. Termed by neo-Marxists “the long march through the institutions,” it took about three generations of this curricula in the education system (since the 1960s and 70s) to culminate in the Cultural Revolution taking place in the West today. Trudeau and those around him are well-versed in this way of thinking.

Scapegoating the church

Trudeau’s scapegoating of the church and the subsequent arson at churches is reminiscent of the president of South Africa encouraging the violent takeover of Boer farmsteads, and also the Democrats encouraging BLM and Antifa to burn down cities in 2020, and even bailing out the perpetrators

Churches are the convenient scapegoats in this narrative. This ultimately translates into more taxpayer money for what has been termed “the aboriginal industry” of professional race-baiters. There was a substantial financial pay-out to those who claimed to be survivors: up to A$275,000 each.

Even though many of those who testified knew it wasn’t the whole truth, their testimonies supported the version of the truth that the Left in Canada benefited from politically. Former Grand Chief Phil Fontaine publicly condemned resident schools but private admitted they had helped him in his education.

The scapegoating of the church undermines Canadian patriotism and lays the groundwork for the takeover of Canada by radical Leftists and Communist China. It’s in the CCP’s political and economic interests to control Canada, a country with vast natural resources. China’s growing population, (its need for lebensraum) has led them to expand into Africa. With Trudeau, they have an ally for expanding into Canada and have already invested heavily tin the Alberta oil sands.

There’s a bitter irony in the fact that Trudeau condemns Canada for alleged “genocide” (a term questionably applied in Canada’s case), while at the same time making excuses for a real genocide perpetrated by the CCP.

The exact same pattern of self-blame and excusing China is being done in the U.S. as well: Biden emphasizes the collective guilt of that country for “systematic racism” while at the same time absolving China of blame.

Trailer for movie on China’s persecution of Christians

The Asian values debate

Both Biden and Trudeau resort to cultural relativism to act as apologists for China. This apologetics started back in the 1990s when China came under fire for human rights violations against political dissidents, pro-democracy activists, Tibetans, Christians and others. At the United Nations, China’s defensive position is sometimes referred to as the “Asian values debate.” The idea of “Asian values” stands in opposition to universal human rights. It is a form of moral relativism. Human rights are reduced to “Western” or “European” values; their universality is denied. The phrases “cultural practices” and “different norms” are being used by Biden and Trudeau to let China off the hook for genocide.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and most members of his cabinet abstained” from the vote to condemn the genocide. Despite that act of complicity with the CCP, “Canada’s House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly to declare China’s treatment of its Uighur minority population a genocide.”

The BBC reports that “Mr Trudeau has so far been hesitant to label China’s actions against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang a genocide, calling the term “extremely loaded” and saying further examination was needed before a decision could be made.”

Deciding to vote against calling the genocide of the Uighurs reminds me of Canada turning its backs on the Jews who sought asylum during the Holocaust.

So while Trudeau says use of the world “genocide” is “loaded” to describe China’s extermination of the Uighurs, he doesn’t hesitate to liberally throw the word around to denigrate Canada’s past.

Interestingly, China, in its own defense, also agues for historical context, but does its argument stand up? “Asian values” claims to stand for positive values. It has been defined as “putting emphasis on a consensual approach, communitarianism rather than individualism, social order and harmony, respect for elders, discipline, a paternalistic State and the primary role of government in economic development”

A key element of it is the priority given “communitarianism” over “individualism” — and this is echoed in Leftist condemnations of individualism as selfish, greedy, etc. But from the perspective that gives individual rights and freedoms priority, Asian values is just an excuse for the state to violate human rights.

The United Work Front Department

Canada’s Minister of Health, Dr. Tam, has castigated Canadians for alleged racism, which is entirely outside her official purview, but is consistent with her role as a Leftist authority figure. She has also advised lockdowns that crippled Canada economically and resulted in the violation of Charter rights — and both results have helped the CCP in its goal to defeat the West through asymmetric warfare.

In this type of psychological warfare, Canadians – and Westerners in general — must be made to feel ashamed of themselves, to experience collective racial guilt for their supposed role in crimes against humanity. That is why Trudeau and Tam — and also Biden — have referred to racism. The CCP encourages racial division and collective guilt in the West by funding Black Lives Matter through the CCP’s United Work Front Department (UFWD).

In Canada, the UFWD. is active: China is making fresh efforts to influence Chinese communities around the world to advance Beijing’s interests, requiring heightened vigilance from democratic countries. Beijing uses the UFWD to stifle criticism, infiltrate foreign political parties, diaspora communities, universities and multinational corporations. The UFWD’s importance to the Chinese Communist Party has grown in recent years under President Xi, as 40,000 new staff have been added . . .

“Over the years, CSIS [the Canadian Security Intelligence Service] has seen multiple instances of foreign states targeting specific Canadian institutions. The scope of potential foreign interference activities can be broad, encompassing a range of techniques that are familiar to intelligence agencies. These include: human intelligence operations, the use of state-sponsored or foreign influenced media, and the use of sophisticated cyber tools.”

Note that CSIS refers to “foreign influenced media.” The mainstream media in Canada is the CCP’s most important tool for taking over Canada in degrees, first by wearing it down. Fomenting racial division is an old Soviet tactic to undermine the West, as revealed by KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov in the 1980s

At the same time, UFWD hosts dinners and events with Western media, and takes out expensive advertising in their news outlets, to win them over. As well, many of these media sources have lucrative branches in China, through which a great deal of money is funnelled to the media investors, which influences them to spread CCP propaganda.

Uighur men detained by PLA soldiers
China's brazen lies about mass concentration camps and ...
Uighur men, blindfolded, shackled and detained

There is a real cost associated with succumbing to this “tyranny of guilt” as noted by Pascal Bruckner: “guilt has now gone too far. It has become a pathology, and … an obstacle to fighting today’s atrocities.” This is from the abstract to his book, worth repeating here:

“Fascism, communism, genocide, slavery, racism, imperialism―the West has no shortage of reasons for guilt. And, indeed, since the Holocaust and the end of World War II, Europeans, in particular, have been consumed by remorse … obsessive guilt has obscured important realities. The West has no monopoly on evil, and has destroyed monsters as well as created them―leading in the abolition of slavery, renouncing colonialism, building peaceful and prosperous communities, and establishing rules and institutions that are models for the world. The West should be proud―and ready to defend itself and its values …”

Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt
Genocide Designations Aren’t Enough to Stop Mass Atrocities
Uighur protest sign


Six things the media got wrong about the graves found near Residential Schools

Re-posted from True North, by Candace Malcolm

When it comes to the coverage of graves identified near residential schools in three First Nations communities, the legacy media in Canada has done a tremendous disservice to all Canadians – especially First Nations.

They have created a moral panic, and continue to fan the flames of racial division.

This panic came to a breaking point over the weekend, when prominent statues were knocked over and at least 25 churches in Western Canada were either vandalized or completely burnt down.

To make matters worse, several prominent commentators, including politicians, journalists, professors, lawyers and activists, excused the behaviour of the mob, explained away and justified these riots, and in some cases, even cheered them on.

“Burn it all down,” said the head of the BC Civil Liberties Association, once the country’s strongest voice for protecting the rule of law and civil liberties.

Likewise, the Chair of the Newfoundland Canadian Bar Association Branch said “Burn it all down”

Or how about this, from a radio host in St. John New Brunswick:

“Burn the churches down. Arrest any former staff that were actually there and any current staff that won’t provide documentation. Sell everything they own in Canada and give it to survivors. Dismantle it completely.”

Not to be outdone, NDP MP Niki Ashton cheered on the mob who toppled statues at the Manitoba legislature but calling it “decolonization” and saying there is “no pride in genocide.”

Finally, Justin Trudeau’s top advisor and best friend Gerald Butts said that burning churches isn’t cool, but it “may be understandable.”

How did we get here as a country?

Here are the six ways the legacy media in Canada got this story wrong.

  1. Unverified Reports
    It is standard practice in journalism to clarify whether or not an allegation has been proven, in court or otherwise. But when the Tk’emlups band issued a press release stating that they had used ground penetrating radar to locate 215 unmarked graves, the media accepted the story without question or any verification.

The band said a report was forthcoming in mid-June – but no report has been released to date. No evidence of any sort has been put forth for public consideration. We don’t know who carried out the research, whether it was a company or a university, or how the technology was used. At this point, we have a few claims, and nothing else.

This may be a minor point, but it’s an important distinction nonetheless.

  1. What exactly was “discovered”?
    There has been incredible confusion over what exactly was discovered, and media outlets have used tremendous liberty in describing what the bands have claimed.

JJ McCullough has made this point on Twitter, showing all the various ways the media have described what was discovered.

The first nation band leaders say they used ground penetrating radar.

To be clear: nothing was “uncovered.” No “bodies” were found. There was no excavation, nothing was unearthed, nothing was removed, no identities were confirmed.

So anything you may have read saying these graves belong to children, including some specific claims about the ages of these children, is speculation at this point.

Let me refer back to a National Post story that explains what ground penetrating radar actually does. They interviewed a professor of Anthropology who is also the director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology. She said this of ground penetrating radar:

“It doesn’t actually see the bodies. It’s not like an X-ray.”

“What it actually does is it looks for the shaft. When a grave is dug, there is a grave shaft dug and the body is placed in the grave, sometimes in a coffin, as in the Christian burial context. What the ground-penetrating radar can see is where that pit itself was dug, because the soil actually changes when you dig a grave. And occasionally, if it is a coffin, the radar can pick up the coffin sometimes as well.”

We’re talking about pretty rudimentary technology here, and a relatively imprecise process. The numbers are more or less a rough estimate.

So why have media reports been so bold in asserting these numbers as facts?

  1. We don’t know whose graves were discovered
    The Tk’emlups band claimed the graves belonged to children at the school. So when the second two bands (Cowessess and Lower Kootaney) came forth with their own claims, many in the media jumped to the conclusion that these too were the graves of children from residential schools.

But that wasn’t the claim made by the bands. In fact, in both Cowessess and Lower Kootaney, the graves are believed to be in community cemeteries, belonging to both First Nations and the broader Canadian community.

Tucked away at the very end of a report in the Globe and Mail on the findings at the Cowessess reserve in Saskatchewan, it said this:

“It appears that not all of the graves contain children’s bodies, Lerat (who is one of the band leaders) said. He said the area was also used as a burial site by the rural municipality.

“We did have a family of non-Indigenous people show up today and notified us that some of those unmarked graves had their families in them – their loved ones,” Lerat said.”

So what we have here is an abandoned community cemetery, where people of different backgrounds were buried.

That’s quite a leap from the original storyline that these graves belong to children who had died at a residential school.

  1. NOT mass graves
    These are not mass graves. Several media outlets, both in Canada and international outlets like the BBC, Al Jazeera, the New York Times and the Washington Post have recklessly and erroneously labeled these findings as mass graves.

This is incredibly irresponsible.

All three chiefs themselves have explicitly stated these are not mass graves.

Why is this important?

Mass graves are a hallmark of genocide. They conjure images of pure evil, the kind of evil that characterized collectivist governments in the 20th century.

Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

These were truly evil leaders who used mass graves to cover their atrocities and crimes against humanity. These leaders carried out mass murder, and the mass graves went hand in hand.

The use of the term mass graves is wrong, and it is reckless. It conflates Canada’s policy of forced assimilation through mandatory universal education, with Nazi death camps.

Let me be clear. Canada’s policy was wrong. It was misguided and in too many cases, those who were responsible for caring for children in this country let them down, and let all of us down.

But that does not put Canada’s residential schools on any level of equivalence with Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.

It’s good to see that the Washington Post made a correction on their story. Others should follow.

  1. Cause of death
    Many children who died at these schools died of natural causes. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee report in 2015, the number one cause of death was Tuberculosis.

You can argue that these children didn’t receive proper health care, or that some of their immune systems could’t handle living in close proximity to other children.

But negligence resulting in accidental death is quite different from murder, which is what many in politics and the media have suggested.

Since this news came out, there has been a near universal assumption in the media that these graves are evidence of Canada’s Holocaust, as if the children had been deliberately killed.

Genocide requires intent. It requires a concerted and systematic effort to conduct mass murder and eliminate an entire race of people.

Canada’s residential schools, however misguided, had the intent of educating children, assimilating them into the broader Canadian population, and ultimately lifting them out of poverty.

The policy was wrong, clearly. It was flawed and much harm resulted.

But there are a few orders of magnitude that separate the misguided intent of Catholic priests, nuns and Canadian government officials versus those of Nazi firing squads and gas chambers.

  1. It’s possible these weren’t even unmarked graves.
    Wooden graves, which were and are still the norm in First Nations communities in Western Canada, erode and disintegrate over time. It’s possible these were once marked graves.

This is the claim being made by the former chief in the Lower Kootenay region (the third band to have announced the finding of graves.)

This is from a Global News story (my emphasis added):

The detection of human remains in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in B.C. was not an unexpected discovery, according to the area’s former chief.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that ground-penetrating radar found 182 unmarked graves in a cemetery at the site of the former Kootenay Residential School at St. Eugene Mission just outside Cranbrook, B.C.

The remains were found when remedial work was being performed in the area to replace the fence at the cemetery last year.

Sophie Pierre, former chief of the St Mary’s Indian Band and a survivor of the school itself, told Global News that while the news of the unmarked graves had a painful impact on her and surrounding communities, they had always known the graves were there.

“There’s no discovery, we knew it was there, it’s a graveyard,” Pierre said. “The fact there are graves inside a graveyard shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.”

According to Pierre, wooden crosses that originally marked the gravesites had been burned or deteriorated over the years. Using a wooden marker at a gravesite remains a practice that continues to this day in many Indigenous communities across Canada.

So when we’re talking about so-called unmarked graves, at least in the context of the Lower Kootenay Band, what we are more likely talking about is abandoned graves at an existing cemetery.

Abandoned graves where people of different backgrounds — not just children from residential schools — were buried.

What an amazing leap to go from an uncared for community cemetery to mass graves, mass murder and genocide.

Mark Twain once said to never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Well for journalists, they might say never let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

Hospital in Kamloops

Archaeologists very skeptical of conclusions being drawn about residential school graves

Posted on July 11, 2021

A Skeptical Analysis of the Reports of “Unmarked Graves” on Residential Schools Grounds

Abstract: Unmarked graves, including children’s graves, are commonplace and exist in virtually every town and city in Canada and around the world. This reflects the reality that in the history of the Earth the dead outnumber the living 14 to 1; that most graves over time are gradually not maintained, and that mortality rates among children were extremely high historically.

Despite sensationalized media coverage, there are reasons for skepticism concerning recent claims made of the “discovery” of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools. Many experts are aware of discrepancies in these stories, but given a media climate that seems increasingly like mass hysteria, are reluctant to comment publicly. Some of these inconsistencies and contradictions are so obvious that anyone who reads this analysis will surely concede that aspects of the “mass grave” stories are highly misleading.

On May 27, 2021, the Tk’emlúps te Secwe´pemc published an article on their website stating that the remains of 215 children were “found” through the use of “a ground penetrating radar specialist.” The name of the company or specialist who performed the survey work was not specified, and few other details were included in the brief report, other than to stress that it was only “preliminary findings.”

In spite of the preliminary and vague nature of the report, it immediately sparked lurid and sensationalized headlines worldwide, which went beyond anything contained in the press release.

The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, The Toronto Star, and numerous other media outlets all ran stories claiming that a “mass grave” had been discovered, a term never used in the report. The Times ran the headline “‘Horrible History’: Mass Grave of Indigenous Children Reported in Canada,” while the Toronto Star printed the headline “Mass impact from discovery of mass grave.”

As archaeologists who have worked with ground-penetrating radar, we knew immediately that the media’s claims went far beyond the evidence, as ground-penetrating radar is quite limited in what it can reveal beneath the earth. But one need not be a specialist to suspect that some aspects of the story were far-fetched. A little common sense and basic knowledge would have alerted anyone to the fact that the “mass grave” claim was highly improbable. A mass grave implies a single catastrophic event, in which all the dead were killed at the same time, and then unceremoniously dumped into a single pit and covered up. Understandably, if such a thing did happen at Kamloops it would indeed be shocking, though fortunately, it is now known beyond doubt that no such thing happened.

Ground-penetrating radar cannot determine the existence of a mass grave; although it can help determine the probable existence of individual graves by locating the suspected outlines of shafts and (depending on the exact technology used) possible coffin remains. But it cannot in any case determine the age, ethnicity, or cause of death, or how old the gravesites are. It was therefore obvious to us that the media headlines about a “mass grave” were false, a fact that was soon confirmed by the Tk?emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir.

In her first public appearance since the May 27 press release which sparked global headlines, at a June 4 press conference Chief Rosanne Casimir stated: “this is not a mass grave. These are preliminary findings. We will be sharing the written report in the middle of the month.” No other new details were provided, but the confirmation that there was no mass grave should have prompted a media reckoning other false and inflammatory coverage, but did nothing of sort. To date, the New York Times and other media, including the Toronto Star, have not issued corrections to their initial false reporting.

It is doubtful that the story would have sparked headlines worldwide if it had been reportedly more accurately, as the shift from a “mass grave” to individual unmarked graves completely alters the story. A mass grave full of children conjures up images of the worse kind of horror, possibly involving murder. Unmarked graves, in contrast, indicate deaths that occurred gradually over a longer period of time, and which likely did once have burial markers (wooden crosses), but which over time were not maintained. Indeed, the Tk?emlúps te Secwépemc press release made plain that the burial site had actually already been known, but since it had not been maintained it was half-forgotten until the recent survey (a fact also ignored in most of the media coverage). The actual details then are not nearly as sensational as the false media headlines made it out to be, headlines which sparked even more extreme social media commentary, and the burning to the ground of at least five churches so far.

Moreover, there are still major unanswered questions about the claims, some of which at this time cannot be reconciled with the known facts. Tk?emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir claimed in her initial May 27 release that some of the 215 remains included children as “young as three years old.” Leaving aside that children that young did not attend residential schools, the only means to determine the age of human remains is to excavate them and examine the bones. But this, according to all publicly released information, has not been done. So how then can Casimir claim to know that the remains of a three-year old are under the ground? Certainly ground-penetrating radar cannot determine such details. Curiously, the Tk?emlúps te Secwépemc have declined to respond to media inquires about such details, or even to release the name of the private company that did the radar survey. Given the school’s long history (it was founded in 1890 and remained in operation until at least the late 1960s), it is entirely possible that the cemetery uncovered was used at an earlier date as a community cemetery, and that some of the graves may not be students.

But in any case, there is no real mystery over what the cause of death was in the majority of cases at residential schools. It is well-established that influenza and tuberculosis were responsible for the majority of deaths. Tuberculosis predates European settlement in the Western Hemisphere, and has caused periodic outbreaks that killed large numbers of people (especially children). Also during the residential school era were four deadly influenza pandemics that reached Canada from overseas, mostly notably Spanish flu in 1918–1919. Besides this, there were also deadly influenza pandemics in Canada in 1890, 1957, and 1968. Each of these pandemics killed thousands of people in Canada. The Spanish flu alone killed an estimated 50,000 Canadians, most of them young people. It was these influenza pandemics and tuberculosis outbreaks that caused the vast majority of deaths at residential schools, which medical treatments of the time were mostly powerless to prevent.

There is also the unacknowledged irony of much of the media trying to collectively blame all Canadians today for past pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks (even though most Canadians weren’t even alive at the time), while insisting that no one should be blamed for covid-19 (even if it originated from a lab leak). This obvious contradiction further highlights that much of the commentary on residential school graves are motivated by something other than a commitment to uncovering the facts. Even more telling is the complete absence of any acknowledgement that the infant mortality rate in Canada throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century was extremely high for children of all backgrounds. Every graveyard of that era contains a large percentage of children’s graves. Indeed, CBC’s Canada: A People’s History (Volume II) states that in early 20th century, “Montreal…had the highest infant mortality rate in North America, a rate that was on par with Calcutta’s.” To this day thousands of unmarked children’s graves are buried in and around Montreal.

Although the errors the media made concerning the initial report about the Kamloops site should have led to a more measured response in subsequent reporting, instead it seems to have only sparked even more outlandish claims about the alleged “discovery” of other graves elsewhere. Shortly after the Kamloops story, on June 24 in Saskatchewan the Cowessess First Nation held a press conference to claim that they had “found” 751 unmarked graves near the site of a former residential school, prompting similar lurid and patently false media stories across Canada and beyond.

This time, the survey took place on the grounds of an actual cemetery, one that has been in use for well over a century, and which is still maintained as a cemetery today. In other words, this supposedly shocking discovery was actually nothing of the sort — the survey literally found graves in a graveyard, most of which are likely adult graves with no connection to any residential school. Not only was this burial site already known to exist, it has been in use since the 1800s. It also happened to be the only Roman Catholic cemetery in the area, meaning for generations local people from all over were buried there.

Even more bizarrely, there had already been news stories as early as 2019 about the planned survey work on the site, and at that time, the local people interviewed had made plain that the primary purpose was to locate old graves of relatives, some of them elderly. It must be presumed then that of the 751 possible graves identified by the survey, the majority are not children’s graves or even related to the residential school, and at least a few might not even be Indigenous.

But irresponsible media reporting has repeatedly implied that all 751 graves were both unknown and that they are children’s graves. Moreover, the removal of some of the headstones or crosses from the graveyard over the years was, according to local reports, due to erosion and lack of maintenance, not some sort of sinister plan. The site has also been under the control of the Cowessess First Nation since 1987, without any effort to re-mark the old graves, despite it being known that such graves had existed.

All subsequent residential school grave stories have followed a similar pattern: a sensational press conference announcing the “discovery” of graves through a ground-penetrating radar survey (technology which cannot distinguish between a child or adult grave) at sites that were already known cemeteries (and therefore contain plenty of adult graves). Any town or city in Canada, however, could do the exact same thing with ground-penetrating radar at unmarked cemetery sites.

Some demographic data might help journalists and activists contextualize just how commonplace unmarked graves actually are. Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, estimated that as of 2015 approximately 108.2 billion people had been born in the history of the world, of which (as of 2015) 7.4 billion were alive. This means there are estimated 100.8 billion people who have died in Earth’s history, or put another way, the dead outnumber the living by more than 14 to 1. In Canada’s context, given our current population of over 38 million, even a conservative estimate would be that there are well over 50 million dead people buried somewhere in Canada (a number that takes into consideration cremation).

Obviously, the vast majority don’t have maintained gravesites. As the relatives of the deceased age, inevitably gravesites are in many cases no longer maintained, and are eventually forgotten. Virtually every town and city (in) Canada has graveyards that are no longer maintained and now forgotten. This is easily confirmed simply by looking at old maps of municipalities, which denote graveyards in many locations that today are no longer cemeteries but just overgrown fields (or even shopping malls and parking lots). To our personal knowledge, in recent years unmarked graves were accidentally uncovered adjacent to Roman Catholic churches in both Hamilton and Guelph by construction crews, some of which were not even particularly old, but still had managed to become unmarked. It is therefore quite obvious that finding 215 or 751 graves in a graveyard (and those numbers are just preliminary estimates) is hardly shocking. Indeed, as recently as 2020 CBC News reported that there an estimated 20,000 unmarked graves buried underneath downtown Halifax alone! Other cities, such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, have even larger numbers of unmarked graves, including children’s graves, which do not have any connection to residential schools. If we are really serious about surveying old graveyards, the final tally of bodies to be found in Canada will run into the tens of millions, including huge numbers of children’s remains (the vast majority of which will not be Indigenous). Indeed, every graveyard of that era contains a large percentage of children’s graves.

Of course, many of the people commentating the loudest on historic graveyards aren’t actually interested in unearthing the past. They’re interested in pitting people against each other in the present.

*The authors are two archaeologists with experience working with ground-penetrating radar, including at burial grounds.

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