A Difficult Story

 The “discovery” of the children’s bodies found on the property of the Tk’emlups te Secwopmc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C  has captured the attention and the hearts of Canada.

This residential school operated from the 1890’s to the 1960’s and now in 2021 pronouncements are circling the globe claiming a “discovered” “mass grave”, where the bodies of two hundred and fifteen children have been interred. The clear and intended implication was that the bodies were  hidden purposefully to avoid criminal responsibility. The discovery with the use of ground radar, was now held up as “proof” of the “genocide” of the Indigenous perpetrated by the government of Canada, the Catholic church, and the often not-mentioned Protestant religious groups.  

It is an event or story which leaves even those some distance from the issue, affected, wordless, searching for things to say, or at least some sort of explanation. The death of any child, society’s innocents, layers us in emotion and draws up unstoppable grief. As some anonymous person said, “losing a child is like losing your breath… and never getting it back”. It is routinely described as unimaginable and easily overwhelming. It is a difficult story, but there is a problem— it is not totally accurate. 

It seems that we have reached a state of affairs in this country where one must question almost all that is being written or reported in the main stream media. It is becoming painfully apparent that almost everyone has an agenda, whether it be political, or social, and, it is permanently warping our ability to trust. Context is almost always missing. Instead, we are being fed polar views delivered by the loudest insistent voices of there being only one truth. In this case, there is the immediate gush of fury, followed by outlandish statements and demands for retribution. There is a palpable governmental and corporate fear of being on the wrong side of any issue and the  factual information is lost in the rush to judgement. 

By putting the deaths of children in “grisly” and “shocking” terms, the headlines wrote themselves. All who may have been directly or indirectly involved are immediately identified and placed on the wrong side of the  blame spectrum; accusing fingers pointing at the presumed guilty, the stain of that guilt never to be removed. History has shown us many times that this quick need to assign fault, the ignoring of rational alternative records, has not served us well, nevertheless we rarely learn. 

To ask questions, to examine the record, of that which is being portrayed in this residential school story, risks insulting the mainstream. Alternate stories are guaranteed to offend almost all who only see black and white. Be forewarned, I am about to offend those of you who only think in straight lines. That rationale that it has been said therefore it is true. Reality is that almost always the facts are found in various shades of grey. Often, a single one-sided glance can be deceptive. 

These deaths are difficult to process, but it was equally dismaying to see the commentary on the news; the reporting of the deaths as a “genocide” a “crime scene” of unequalled proportions all of which reverberated through the radio, television and print media.  Children “stolen” from their homes and culture. The media in its various forms showing no compunction in knowingly feeding the fire of outrage. The oft repeated story portrayed intrepid searchers stumbling across the evidence of heinous crimes. An unmarked grave site, where children were buried in anonymity. Predictably, politicians of every stripe, climbed on board the indignation train, innuendo solely fed by untested claims of criminality. 

Jagmeet Singh, the Federal leader of the NDP, dramatically, breathlessly, and tearfully, literally unable to speak. The Liberal Apology Party, having apologized several times before, to no avail,  are now demanding apologies from the Vatican— a political sleight of hand designed to make you look the other way. The wokes scurrying around the country trying to hide the statues of Sir John A., the now damned originator of residential schools. 

The purpose of this post is not to examine the policy of the residential schools. Was it an attempt by colonists to wipe out the Indigenous culture, or on the other hand was it an effort to assimilate and educate? The answer is likely somewhere in the middle. The current accepted view was that it was a misguided policy at the very best and it is likely equally clear that many of those involved in the early years were unconcerned at the time with preserving the “culture” of the First Nations. That is a never ending circular debate. The purpose of this post is to merely examine what the evidence actually shows up to this point in time. 

The early reports of the findings by the use of “ground radar” gave one the impression of it being an unexpected  “grisly discovery”. Grisly yes, but it was not a “discovery”. 

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in examining residential schools identified the names of, or information about, more than 4100 children who died of the 150,000 children (some estimates are lower at 3200 children). That represents a fatality rate of 2.7%, or if one accepts the lower rate, 2.13%. 

In 1950, in Canada, the infant mortality rate was 2.92%. A higher death rate nationally than in the residential schools. 

That aside, that children were dying in saddening numbers in the years of the residential schools is a fact. However, the biggest killer in 1900 was pneumonia and influenza and those two illnesses alone recorded 202 deaths per 100,000 people in Canada. There were other killer diseases lurking: smallpox, typhus, cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis. TB by itself was widespread in children after WWI.  It was also deadlier, as it was slow to recognize, as it affected the glands, bones and joints rather than the lungs. Those children that contracted tuberculosis had a very low survival rate. So this is being reported as a “genocide” when to date, there has been no evidence of anyone being purposefully killed. 

The second question was why were they then placed in unmarked graves on the property? Was this an attempt to hide wrong doing? There is a simpler but yet unpalatable answer. The cost of returning the bodies to the families was prohibitive during those austere times. That has been documented. Secondly, record keeping in those times both on the Reserves and by the Church were spotty at best and often totally absent. Many children had only their assigned names and a guess as to their true age.

So the children were by necessity, dictated by the times, buried on the property. The fact that the children were buried on the sites of the residential schools throughout the country— some in unmarked graves, others in marked graves, has been known for a very long time. 

The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement had already recognized that there were 139 residential schools across the country. (These are only those that received Federal support, there were others run solely by religious orders or provincial governments).  An undertaking to return the bodies to the families would be, even to this day,  a logistical nightmare.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 in releasing their report even included a section on missing children and burial grounds. They recommended 94 calls to action. One of those calls was for the the Federal government to work with churches, indigenous communities, and former students “to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children”. 

So two years ago, in the 2019 budget the Liberal Federal government allocated $32 million to implement the burial recommendations. There is still $27 million left. Now, Mr. Trudeau says the government is leaping into action and is going to distribute the money “on an urgent basis”.  These graves were not uncovered and fully documented sooner for a simple reason—government and Indigenous bureaucratic inefficiency. We should also keep in mind that the Provincial government paid for the examination of the the Kamloops residential school site. This clearly was not a cover up. 

There is the additional claim running rampant as part of the cover up theory— that the Catholic Church and the Federal government is withholding records from the schools. 

In fact, the Federal government did indeed destroy documents related to the residential “school system between 1936 and 1944, including 200,000 Indian Affairs files”. Were the records destroyed as a result of a governmental cover-up, or were they destroyed as a matter of routine?  Government records often run on a twenty-five or fifty year timeline. One could presume that death records of any kind should never be destroyed, but that is a separate issue. 

In the early times of the residential schools, accurate record keeping was in short supply. Children were coming in from Indigenous communities where there were often no records of births or deaths, that was the custom. The schools upon receiving these children, were also seemingly sparse with their documentation when compared to standards of the  21st century. Also contrary to the current reporting, in fact, records at the Kamloops residential school have already been provided. It showed only fifty one deaths compared to the two hundred and fifteen, but is that the result of poor  and absent record keeping, or was it a conspiracy to only reveal some of them? 

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the academic director at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, stated that the records from the Kamloops residential school had not been provided to the Truth and Reconciliation group. However, she admits that the “churches handed over most residential school records, but in a few cases, the narratives were withheld, notably at Kamloops and St Annes (in Ontario)” So the Church records, like the children’s bodies were and are hiding in plain sight. The fact that no one has acted on them is probably the story that should be pursued.  

The final question is whether or not this is a site where there is evidence of criminal activity.  Is it as NDP MP Leah Gazan says, that all the residential schools are the sites of “active crime scenes”?

Well no, they are not crime scenes, because crime scenes need to have evidence or confirmation of wrong doing. Now some may argue that the stories told by the Indigenous “survivors”, is evidence enough of criminality. In recent years we seem to have taken the approach that allegations standing by themselves are sufficient evidence of wrong doing. As any homicide investigator will tell you, that is an untenable position.

Little is yet known as to the condition of the bodies. Ground radar (actually it works like sonar) shows very little, other than shapes in the ground. The exhumation of the bodies and subsequent pathology could possibly show evidence of assault, or lead to estimations of causes of death, but to pronounce it so, so early in the investigation is unprincipled. 

Was there wrongdoing at the schools in the form of physical abuse or sexual deviance? Lets ask the current Armed Forces or the RCMP whether its possible that their organizations have been open to abuse and sexual assaults over the last number of years? Would we think the Catholic churches any different?  It would seem impossible that the Catholic church, whose wrongdoings have been hauntingly exposed during the last several years around the world, would not be guilty of some criminal offences over such a lengthy span of time. However, the evidence in the burial site will not likely aid that level or type of investigation.  

Even if  one is to assume that this was in fact a crime scene, then it should be suggested that the RCMP do more than “offer its full support” to the First Nations who are now in attendance and overseeing the “crime scene”.  A crime scene by the way, which will now be forever tainted in the event something is discovered amongst the bodies. The RCMP, if they believe that this is a possible crime scene, should be taking charge and control of the scene if that were the case. Instead, the Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP continues to go forward with its “work towards reconciliation”

Mr. Blair also apologizes for the RCMP having performed according to the law and carried out the “clear and unavoidable role”.  He is late to that apology, probably confused, because Commissioner Zaccardelli apologized in 2004, and then Commissioner Paulson apologized in 2014. 

Despite all these inconsistencies, the fallout damage in the reporting on the residential school  is now done. The political gains that the Indigenous movement hoped to engender have been cemented. The world is now believing that Canadian history includes the genocide of their Indigenous population. 

Now, of course, when pressed on the word “genocide” the spokespersons are falling  back to the more acceptable argument of  “cultural genocide. And, only yesterday an Indigenous spokesperson walked backed away from the “mass grave” description and now clarifies the record to say that they were actually “individual” un-marked grave sites. 

The Perry Bellegarde’s of the Indigenous movement will now proffer up the discoveries as a lever to aid in the battle to get passed– the recently introduced Liberal legislation Bill C-15— the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Act. Who would dare to question the bill, while expressing their overwhelming guilt in the treatment of the Indigenous. There is a valid argument that this future Act could give the Indigenous possible veto power over the economic development of Canada. One would have to be incredibly naive to think for a moment that this point has been lost on the Indigenous leadership in Canada. 

In the next few months,  monies will be provided for further examination of marked and un-marked grave sites throughout the country, a process which could take years and years of painstaking “investigation”. The Mounties will no doubt dutifully continue to “standby” and “provide support”.  Commissioner Lucki will be the lead social worker.  

The Indigenous can and will be encouraged by the media to continue to narrate the verbal claims of abuse and “incarceration” at the schools. The dominant reported narrative, like the one surrounding the Indigenous Missing Women’s task force, will remain by its very origin, clearly slanted. The masses will be satiated with apologies or flowered monuments. The truth will have to surface on another day and in another time. 

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Mark Miller will continue to ask the Pope for an apology as there preferred policy option. It is interesting to note that Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto of the Catholic Church, said that he felt Trudeau’s comments were “unhelpful” and “not based on real facts”.  Amen to that. 

That truth is that children were removed from often desperate situations and sent to sparse boarding schools during a time of disease and illness— ailments from which this country could not protect them; run by religious groups who brought with them there own inherent dysfunctions. This is a difficult story, but up to this point in time, only a partial story. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons by GotoVan – Some rights Reserved

In need of a Churchill

There are many types of Principles. There are Principles for Life, Principles for Work and Principles for Success. The exponents of Principles vary from the Baptist preacher, to the hundreds of wannabe consultants populating Linked-In.  All preaching fundamental and quite obvious truths. There are principles of science, law, journalism and farming— but let’s deal with the fundamental building block of principles for life— that of the need to seek and speak the truth. Veracity and strength of character, in what you say and do and the willingness to sacrifice for that truth.  It is the rarest of all qualities. 

This blogger was taken down this philosophical wandering path into human principles and basic truths by a recent biography on Winston Churchill. It is an incredibly long and extensively researched book, by Andrew Roberts, a total exploration of the times in which Churchill lived and the circumstances over fifty years which led to his becoming the Prime Minister of Britain in 1939.  Appointed Prime Minister as the world was preparing for the Second World War. 

The book is not always admiring; it points to faulty decisions, obstinate views, less than charming personality traits and all the other foibles which make up every human and make us just like our neighbour.  In his long build up —as a child born into privilege, unbridled love for a less than generous father, bullied at school, a troubled relationship with his son and a sometimes unfaithful but loyal wife that all became part of his being.  This was combined with a world wide and extensive education, through travel and schooling, W.W. I, being a Prisoner of War, and shot at during the Boer War.  This mixture of circumstance and education joined with his social DNA to create the man, the man who many would argue was the saviour of Britain and the saviour of the world from Naziism and the scourge of Hitler. 

There are a few obvious characteristics which stood out to all that watched and listened every night to the BBC broadcasts during those trying times. In examining both this man and this time in history, it is impossible not to be struck or attempt a comparison to the leaders of today. Clearly, the qualities or abilities that were on full display from 1940 to 1945 are in short supply in this day and age. It is both interesting and disheartening if one considers current policing management and the general political atmosphere in Canada.

In recent days, in this country the politicians and the policing administration has been exposed. A bright harsh light is shining down on a group of leaders who seem helpless and ridiculous—hoisted on their own petard of political correctness.  Held hostage by a minority who believe that the rule of law does not apply to them. The economy stalemated by a small group of people, a radical fringe basking in their ability to cause upheaval and spout outlandish claims to the other 95% of Canada. 

There has never been a greater need for a Churchill and the qualities which seem in such short supply in February 2020.

First and foremost was a fundamental honesty. And he wielded that honesty with great relish and effect. In speaking to the masses or his political War Cabinet, even in the very darkest of times, such as the evacuation of Dunkirk, he did not underestimate, play with the numbers, or fudge the losses. He was direct and sincere in his grief. He had faith in the ability of the general public to discern truth from fiction, to tell right from wrong, and to understand dire circumstances. 

Secondly, he was a great communicator. He believed in the power of oratory, the power of inflection, nuance, and tone. He studied it, practised in front of a mirror, and when he rose in the House of Commons to speak, even the opposition (and there were many who disliked him) grew quiet in anticipation of what he was about to say. Most people do not know that Churchill was a writer, a journalist and one of the greatest historical record keepers in modern times. When out of power, he lived on his writing skills, and he wrote honestly and with endless fairness, even when speaking about those that had often opposed him. He skillfully injected humour into often seemingly humourless situations in an effort to alleviate the tension in which they were then living. 

Thirdly, he was intelligent. He studied continuously; interested in almost every vocation and profession that entered into his sphere. He was a military expert, in tactics both in the air, on the land and on the sea. He could comment on armaments, proposed one of the first tank vehicles, and could cite naval tactics going back to Lord Nelson. He predicted the Second World War and the rise of Naziism, five years before the actual event. He talked and wrote about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe long before it was noticed by the rest of the world. He created MI 5 and MI 6 because of his fundamental belief in the need for intelligence even when the country was not at war.  

It was intelligence based on an un-abiding intellectual curiosity, a need when in a group to speak to everyone, consider every point of view, and not avoid those with counter-views. He had no problem marching in and in front of a hostile and rambunctious crowd with little regard for his personal safety but intent in trying to argue reason over emotion. That being said he did not handle fools easily. He had no interest in the lazy and intellectually vacant. 

And finally, he was brave, tireless, indefatigable, relentless in his pursuit of in what he believed and fearless in terms of pursuing it until the end.  During the war when travelling to meetings he often carried his .45 revolver, not out of fear but out of a belief that if someone was going to try and kill him, he would only go down by taking someone with him. 

He was famous for his afternoon naps, his cigars and his enjoyment of a good drink. A sense of  life, a sense of the relatively short time we spend on earth, often working until the wee hours of the morning. While in Cabinet, he still took time to paint and to write 1500 words a day, all while the world was changing in dramatic rapidity and demands for his attention became insistent and never-ending. His decisions during the war, often involved the life and death struggles of young soldiers in the trenches, while his city was being bombed around him. 

To compare our 21st century Canadian problems to that of the past seems patently unfair, as we can not easily comprehend the world in which Churchill and many others were forced to live and endure. We can not relate to real stress. Quite naturally, we have become softer, we have entered into a time period when little things become big things where “life and death” can be portrayed in an emoji.  

Our lifestyles have grown along with our financial outlook and with our egos which are being projected into the ether, dutifully recorded by endless selfies. Twitter and Facebook allows us to share our small world problems with the rest of the world, yet paradoxically in Canada we seem to have no real knowledge of the other world.  We are immune to the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, to famine in Africa, or massacres in Rohingya. But we are often consumed whether two members of the Royal family live in Canada as if it gives us some validity as a country. The numbers of those that have contracted coronavirus are counted and published in large “War” like headlines and displayed in graphics that would be the envy of Pixar. 

But as one reviews the principles and the fundamental needs of leadership that were exemplified by Churchill, is it fair to look around and compare? Maybe not, but can we not demand that this current leadership group should have at least one quality? Can we look at Trudeau, John Horgan, Kennedy Stewart or the Commissioner of the RCMP, Perry Bellegarde of the First Nations—anyone? 

Let’s examine some of the needed principles. Honesty? Well, it has been a long time since any of us ever felt that we were not being lied to, or that we were getting the unabashed truth. When was the last time any of you sat around a police meeting room conference table and felt that there was room for honest discontent, or an opposing opinion — without the fear of being ostracized? Try to be honest in your answer.

Has not the rule of thumb to be promoted to management ranks in the RCMP or any other police force in the last number of years, been that first and foremost you must be  a “company” man or woman.  There is no room for any counter opinion or dissent. All is good, all is well is the ongoing theme for the aspirants to the top of any government institution. Preach the political platitudes and all will be well. 

Finally, are these leaders intelligent? Many are, but what is exasperating is that many have chosen to subsume that intelligence in order to advance a better career, or an increased position of power.  They are expending that intelligence on doing what plays politically. What fits the polls?  They often rose to positions of substance, by being non-committal, never getting caught in venturing an opinion, forever fearful of the negative spotlight.  They seemed to have turned that intelligence away from the honest and forthright and have adopted the belief that the truth can not be handled by the masses. Only they know the way forward, they are the elites. Free speech or even unfiltered speech no longer a founding principle for democracy. 

So where does that leave us? We have not reached the epic problems of Churchill’s time. But, we have arrived at a junction where a lack of leadership is putting us close to the precarious edge of revolt. The growth of the populist right, is being nurtured by a growing cynicism, energized by these sycophants to the liberal political ideology of appeasement at all costs. 

Yes, we are in desperate times, as we scan the horizon for a leader who exudes the qualities of a Churchill, but the landscape is indeed barren. Someone intent on speaking the truth. Willing to stand for the principles of honesty and integrity and most importantly willing to be unpopular. But convinced of their stance which is supported by experience and an extended knowledge of the situation. Someone who has a basic understanding of right and wrong.

 Chrystia Freeland, Marc Garneau, Mark Miller,  Brenda Lucki, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May  and Justin Trudeau are clones; interchangeable. They are trying to propagate the belief that they and only they are the humanistic preserve of the enlightened.

Now all these issues and policies to which they marched, lock step, arms linked is now playing out on the news every night. The issues of the day are now exposing how trying to appeal to everyone, to be on both sides of the fence, will eventually lead to contradiction.  Let’s be clear. Not being on the fence, but literally trying to be on both sides of an issue.

The police have gone down this road of being inseparable from the legislative arm. No longer are they strictly the enforcers of the law, independent and impartial, they are now part of the political process, enforcing and being directed only when it meets and suits the political agenda. This slippery slope comes at great cost. The RCMP has now been tainted, painted with the brush of bias, favoured interest groups being treated differently; in this case the Liberal indigenous cause.

Police management and the politicos are clearly working together now, trying to see a way out, when neither has any vision.

The economy is now staggering under the weight of illegality, but they are currently willing to sacrifice the economy to support their policy platform to which they are inexorably tied. It is their only hope for political survival. They pray each night to the gods that the indigenous will tire of their just cause, whatever that might be as the end goal is anything but clear. Their fear of violence erupting if they adhere to the rule of law would destroy their “reconciliation” platform, and their fear is palpable. It is hard to take a stand, when your only stance is to be popular.

It is pathetic to watch and it is a long way from Churchill. 

In a famous speech Churchill said: ” Let us brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say; “This was their finest hour”.

This is not this country’s finest hour.

It was learned today that the CO of E Division RCMP Jennifer Strachan wrote to the indigenous hereditary chiefs offering to pull back from the enforcement of the blockade near Houston, B.C. as a sign of “good will”. No doubt a suggestion from some of her political bosses.

She and the others should pay head to another statement by Churchill:

“An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile–hoping it will eat him last”