Hosing down ‘the biggest moral panic in Canadian history’

Canadians deserve to know the truth,” Federal Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters earlier this week, regarding 2021 claims made — but never investigated — of unmarked graves at the Kamloops, British Columbia Indian residential school. Poilievre said he was open to “a full investigation into the potential remains at Residential Schools,” wherever that may lead.

This is a bold move, taken in the full knowledge that the Liberals will put a demonizing spin on his comments, even though the Conservative leader also said that “the residential schools were an appalling abuse of power by the state and by the Church at the time.”

If Poilievre feels confident to, as he put it, “stand in favour of historical accuracy” on this file, then he believes a critical mass of Canadians will support the proposal.

Trudeau’s government, by contrast, is wedded to the unquestioning, emotive approach to IRS history. From the day that First Nations announced the “discovery” of 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops, arising solely from a finding of “soil disturbances” by ground penetrating radar the Liberals sprang into supportive action. They were emboldened by an overzealous media, starting with the New York Times, which falsely claimed a “mass grave” had been found. Flags were lowered, and Trudeau issued a plangent apology for the children “whose lives were taken” at Kamloops.

Only there was no evidence of lives illicitly “taken.” To date, in spite of the government’s allocation of C$7.9 million for the task, no excavation has been done at Kamloops. Excavations in other suspected sites have not turned up human remains. But the media long avoided contrarian copy. (National Post columnist Terry Glavin’s May 2022 feature article on the graves broke the mainstream silence.)

Not that there wasn’t any published pushback. There was plenty, from a cadre of highly accredited scholars, investigative journalists, judges, lawyers and independent researchers, who have amongst themselves amassed probably a million hours of research into all facets of government-Indigenous relations, including the IRS. Only they appeared in non-mainstream media, such as C2C Journal, the Dorchester Review, True North, the Western Standard, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Quillette and in some cases their own substacks. For their pains, most of them were labelled “deniers” by media and politicians.


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Excellent articles on the IRS by these indefatigable researchers have now been compiled into a single volume, Grave Error: How the media misled us (and the truth about residential schools), edited by historian Chris Champion, publisher of the Dorchester Review, and Tom Flanagan, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Calgary and chair of the Indian Residential Schools Research Group (I am an IRSRG board member).

Conrad Black’s spirited foreword to the book levels a blistering critique at the Trudeau government for “legitimizing and declining to offer any legal or public relations defence against escalating and profoundly false allegations that constitute blood libels against the British and French founding peoples of this country.”

It should go without saying that neither Black nor any contributor to Grave Error denies that serious abuses occurred at the schools. But even serious abuses are not genocide. Overstatement of IRS harms, and understatement of benign IRS intentions and positive outcomes, have had serious consequences, most notably the burning or vandalism of 83 churches, shamefully soft-pedalled by the government as “understandable.”

Old Sun Anglican Aboriginal School, Southern Alberta (date unknown). 

Together, the various writers tackle all the fallacies put forward in the Kamloops narrative and rebut them with evidence. Amongst other realities: most Indigenous children did not attend IRS; the schools were not mandatory until 1920; residential schools did not destroy indigenous languages, though students were discouraged from speaking their languages in school; and there are no “missing children,” only a failure of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s researchers to consult a vast archive of documentation available to them.

Published by True North and Dorchester Books on December 5, the book is enjoying great success, even though it is only sold on Amazon. In Canada, 500 sales constitute an academic bestseller. True North’s founder and editor-in-chief Candice Malcolm told me that Grave Error sold around 500 copies on the first day, and nearly 2,000 copies in the first week alone. At one point in December, Malcolm said, it was the no. 1 bestselling non-fiction book on all of Amazon.ca — outselling books by Prince Harry, Britney Spears and Matthew Perry.

No mainstream publisher would have touched this book with a ten-foot pole. And yet, as Malcolm tells me, “at this rate, this book will be read by tens of thousands of Canadians without the title ever once appearing in the Globe and Mail or on the CBC.”

Ken Whyte, publisher of Sutherland House, which produces a-political “intelligent narrative” non-fiction, devoted the 226th edition of SHuSH, his company newsletter, to the phenomenon of Canada’s conservative “non-publishers,” like True North, Rebel News and the Aristotle Foundation (which recently published the successful book, “The 1867 Project,” still the no. 1 bestseller in Amazon’s Canadian history category). None of these publishers gets grants, as publishing houses that won’t touch conservative authors do. Yet all are putting out profitable bestsellers.

Whyte, who is also a former National Post editor, begins with Grave Error and goes on to cite other commercial successes, such as “Hold the Line,” by Tamara Lich of Convoy fame, published by Rebel News Network, which is the no. 1 bestseller in Canadian biographies. He notes that Lich’s book has about 1,700 positive reviews, or four times as many as the Mark Messier biography “for which Simon & Schuster paid $1 million.”

Malcolm told me True North was “delighted” to publish Grave Error, because the unmarked graves story was “the biggest moral panic in Canadian history.”

I’m confident that every Canadian who does read it will back Polievre’s support for a full investigation. It is high time that “reconciliation” and evidence-based “truth” share the same public forums. We’ll never achieve the former without the latter.  

Barbara Kay lives in Montreal. She is a columnist for the National Post, the Epoch Times and the WesternStandardOnline.com. | [email protected]  | X.com: @BarbaraRKay 

This article has been republished from the National Post with permission. 




Showing 11 reactions

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  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-05 11:31:08 +1100
    Mary Ruth

    No offence intended but, on any controversial topic, I never take the uncorroborated word of a random person on the internet. If you make claims you should be able to back them up.
  • Mary Ruth
    commented 2024-02-03 20:48:30 +1100
    David Page: I was not writing a research paper so I did not keep note of all the historical records I checked. Many Treaties of individual tribes with the regional Cdn govts are on the Web. Also just search residential schools. You think kids from different tribes treated each other like family in the rez schools? They were raised to hate their enemy tribes, even today, The Musqueam & the Squamish, the Blackfoot & the Cree & many others harbour deep-seated resentment for each other, but work together against the White man. Start your own journey.
    Steven Meyer: The churches have run schools for eons. Catholic schools are some of the best in Canada today for a solid education & discipline. Who would you have appointed to run these rez schools? Fur traders & explorers? As I know, boarding schools anywhere are nightmares.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-03 12:35:52 +1100
    Ignore? No

    Obsess over?

    Well, that’s a different story. Muslim are still banging on about the crusades. In the Balkans various groups are still fighting over stuff that happened centuries ago. In Ireland the potato famine is still a hot topic.

    We also need to face up to the reality that bad actors profit from whipping up feelings about past wrongs.

    I don’t know anything about these Canadian schools. By the sound of things they were pretty awful. Why anyone thought asking a church to run them was a good idea escapes me, If there’s any group that can be relied on to create a hell on earth – all with the best of intentions – it’s religios.

    But now what? From what I’ve read no hard evidence for unmarked graves has turned up.

    So, are there any?

    Wouldn’t some good evidence be a good idea before going on?
  • Patrick Obrien
    commented 2024-02-03 04:26:48 +1100
    And goofy Pope Francis got on the guilt-trip bandwagon as well.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-02-02 23:29:46 +1100
    Mary, would you mind sharing your source material?
  • Mary Ruth
    commented 2024-02-02 20:04:52 +1100
    The history of our rez schools has been distorted by the recent band claims that Indigenous kids were tortured, raped, murdered & buried on school grounds. As noted, no remains of any children have been dug up. Why? Many tribes say the bones must not be disturbed or they don’t want the truth out.
    These schools demand their place in history, but in truthful history. A summary: Many tribal chiefs demanded the Cdn govt provide Western education (the 3 Rs) to their tribe’s children when they signed treaties. The govt called on the Church to fulfill those requests. Kids from far-flung locations stayed in the dorms and locals attended day school. Many families took their kids there to keep them from starving; others were taken there by Indian agents.
    Was it all roses? No. There was abuse, both by short-tempered and unsavoury members of the staff and by children from enemy tribes. For some, it was harsh and cruel, and like any school dormitory environment, they were stuck there unless they ran away, only to get lost, freeze to death or find their village already short of food.
    Was there disease? Of course, just like we all suffered. Spanish flu, TB, chicken pox, measles, mumps. Kids in confined quarters were more susceptible, and some died.
    There is much more, but there is also much propaganda, too.
    Throwing $billions of taxpayer money to try and appease Indigenous activists who continue to dwell on these issues will never make them happy.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-02-02 18:44:17 +1100
    Steven, are you suggesting the past needs to be ignored? In this case it was members of the affected tribe who brought the accusations. Now I’m not saying we should pore endlessly over the horrible details, but we do need to understand what led up to these events. Germany isn’t the only place in the world where the contempt of one group for another has led to tragedy. In fact it is once again reaching pandemic proportions worldwide.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-02 14:31:50 +1100
    My co-religionists often complain that the younger generation don’t know enough about The Holocaust. They want more Holocaust Education

    I always pose the following hypothetical:

    Imagine a schoolboy aged 14 in one of the depressed regions of Northern England. He attends a crappy school. At least one of his parents is unemployed. His older brother is a member of a gang. His life prospects, to put it mildly, look poor.

    You look this kid in the eye and announce: We’ve invested in a special program. It won’t teach you any useful skills. It won’t do anything to improve your life chances. Instead we’re going to tell you about something terrible that happened in another country before your grandparents were born.

    (When I started with this hypothetical I used to say “before your parents, (not grandparents), were born”.)

    Do you get my point?

    A lot of bad stuff happened decades ago. And a lot of bad stuff is happening today. At what point do we stop focusing on what happened in the past and focus more on making today better?

    If this happened so long ago that no human remains can be found maybe it’s time to focus on the present.

    And, BTW, trying to guilt people because of something that may have happened a long time ago and that had nothing to do with them is a tactic that always backfires.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-01-31 20:50:30 +1100
    Hi Steven. As long as it doesn’t become a red herring. The starting point for all this is that there were terrible abuses. If no bodies are found, does that mean the abuse didn’t occur? Depending on the soil, bones will disappear in 10 to 30 years. How old would these suspected graves be? 100 years? It would take a massive effort to figure out what really happened.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-01-31 16:11:55 +1100
    Hi David Page it seems to me this is something that can be fact checked fairly easily. Just dig up the sites and see whether there are any human remains to be found.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-01-31 04:17:38 +1100
    Where does the author think the missing children went? Former students tell stories of vicious abuse, and I can believe it. If what happened to me as a child were to happen today, the nuns involved would face prison sentences; and I’m not a helpless Indian child. I would refer you to this article in the New York Times; https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/28/world/canada/kamloops-mass-grave-residential-schools.html