Why Is Nothing Being Done About the Claim That Children Were Murdered in Canada’s Residential Schools?

Why Is Nothing Being Done About the Claim That Children Were Murdered in Canada’s Residential Schools?
The Canadian flag flies at half-mast in recognition of residential school students, on the West Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 2, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Rodney A. Clifton

Over the last two years, innumerable news reports have been published about missing children and mass or unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools (IRS) from across Canada. First, the news that the graves of 215 students were discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School at the end of May 2021 was shocking, to say the least. (Even I was shocked and I lived and worked in two residential schools.)

Since then, many other reports have claimed that hundreds, if not thousands, of indigenous children died, or were murdered, and their bodies were secretly buried, often in the dead of night. In fact, Justice Murray Sinclair told CBC Radio host Matt Galloway that he thinks that as many as 15,000 to 25,000 IRS students are missing and perhaps murdered. It is with this background that New York Times called its story on the topic “’Horrible History’: Mass Graves of Indigenous Children Reported in Canada.”

So far there is no verifiable evidence supporting this claim. No bodies have been exhumed yet. And, perhaps more importantly, the Truth and Reconciliation Report says that the RCMP investigated 15 deaths at various residential schools and concluded that all of them resulted from accidents or diseases.

Even with the RCMP investigation in mind, readers may be surprised to learn that the report from Kamloops was not the first time that children were reported to have been murdered in Canada’s residential schools. The most horrific testimony was by Doris Young when she spoke to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on June 22, 2012. Ms. Young had been a student at the Elkhorn Indian School in Manitoba, and recalled, according to the final TRC report:

“I remember was, there was all these screams, and there was blood over the, the walls. [Crying]… and we were told that if we, if we ever told, or tried to run away, we would, the same thing would happen to us. [Crying] So, it was a dangerous time for, for children, and for me at that, those days. [Crying] We never really knew who would be next to be murdered because we witnessed one already. [Crying]”

It is strange that Ms. Young’s testimony never created a public outcry like the one that occurred after the Kamloops report was published. Even more telling, the commission included two lawyers, Chief Wilton Littlechild and Justice Murray Sinclair, who did not refer Ms. Young’s evidence to the proper authorities for a thorough investigation. Equally telling, none of the 94 Calls to Action (recommendations) in the TRC report requests that law enforcement agencies examine the schoolyards around the 143 residential schools to find the bodies of murdered and missing children.

Instead, both the commissioners and the media waited nine years until the Kamloops revelation before saying anything about the possibility that other children were murdered at residential schools. Surely, the murder of one child, as reported by Doris Young, should have caused as much anguish and pain as the possible murder of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School.

Even more seriously, the highest Canadian government officials, the prime minister and the governor general, have spoken as if the claim of murdered children is a proven fact.  In response to the claim, for example, the government lowered the Canadian flag on government buildings and made over $110 million available for indigenous bands to exhume bodies. But so far no bodies have been found.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated that truth was necessary for reconciliation, but the recent rash of news reports demonstrates that transparency and verification are also important principles in investigating crimes and establishing whether a claim is true.

Surely, there needs to be a thorough investigation of the claim that indigenous children were murdered while attending Indian Residential Schools. An independent agency, like the RCMP, with authority and expertise, must thoroughly investigate the claim without interference from governments or any groups. In fact, Call to Action no. 25 in the TRC report says: “We call upon the federal government to establish a written policy that reaffirms the independence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate crimes in which the government has its own interests as a potential or real party in civil litigation.”

I doubt that any Canadian believes that people, indigenous or non-indigenous, who abused or murdered residential school children should escape punishment. I also doubt that any Canadian believes that innocent IRS employees should be condemned and punished. Nevertheless, the government and the news media have acted as if IRS employees were guilty of a variety of crimes including the murder of indigenous children and burying their bodies in the yards of the schools.

A democracy cannot function without a commitment to truth, transparency, and verification by governments and news agencies. For Canada and her citizens, these values must be re-established as fundamental. Without these values, Canadians will not have an honest and fair reconciliation. Canadians certainly deserve better if we are going to have a peaceful and fair reconciliation.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.