The Farce of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Last year, when a UN committee gave Canada a slap on the wrist for its treatment of indigenous people, a stalwart response followed from Justice Murray Sinclair, Chairman of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the form of a photo-op and an “interim report” at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. On the same day, like a countervailing bookend enclosing the atrocity of Canadian history, at the University of British Columbia, on the other side of that same city, an interesting contrapuntal statement was being delivered.

It is included below, along with my intrusive commentary. Equally amazing is that UBC, should in this case be cast in the role of paragon of free speech. This is the institution which — having granted Kevin Annett [the son of the writer -- DV Ed.] a B.A. in Anthropology, a M.A. in History and a M.Div. from its School of Theology — rejected his Ph.D. thesis because his dissertation dealt with the criminal proclivities of the United Church of Canada, which had excommunicated him and trashed his life, with the old-growth acquisitions of forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel (illegitimate step-child of the Weyerhaeuser Company of Seattle), both organizations prominent among the University’s fondest funders and unfailingly prominent reps on its Senate, Board of Trustees and in the office of Chancellor.

Kevin Annett’s rejected Ph.D. dissertation, and the three books he has published since on its contents, provided everything and more free of charge to the Canadian taxpayers that the TRC was to dig up, dilute down and compile in politically correct verbiage twenty years later. Except that the latter, all 115 scrawny pages of it, was to cost those same value-averse Canadian taxpayers $68 million.

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For those readers who tuned in late – including about 29.9 million Canadians who have yet to tune in at all, being otherwise preoccupied with the adventures of rock artists and Canuck hockey scores – we might start at the beginning:

On October 1, 2011 in a small Ontario town named Brantford, elders of the notably independent Mohawk Nation pulled the plug on an indifferent, dithering federal government and commenced its own forensic excavation of one of many known mass grave sites, in order to expose the horrifying detritus of a century and a half of federally-sanctioned, church-run “Indian residential schools” and the unacknowledged litany of crime against humanity.

Working closely with the Mohawk Nation was the seven-country sponsored International Tribunal into the Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) – now active in more than 20 countries – and its co-founder, Reverend Kevin Annett, former United Church of Canada minister, delisted in 1995 because he refused to play ball with his church’s straying from the narrow path of godliness, their hidden murderous agenda and their real estate proclivities involving Indian land.

A forensic team had already unearthed clear evidence of the existence of a human burial. Small humans. Children. Just as Kevin Annett had been documenting for 20 years.

The forensic investigation began on the grounds of the oldest “Indian residential school” in Canada, that farcical pseudonym for 141 charnel houses operated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Churches of Canada for at least 120 years at the instigation of a colonial federal government.

All of the “schools” were the same. Administered and run like prisons for helpless children by cretins in and out of church regalia, their abominable history is consistently given a blind eye by official Canada and its sleeping populace.

Kevin Annett’s story is so well-known that the courageous Canadian media, after giving it scant attention back in the Nineties, has long since allowed it to disappear from the news cycle in favor of more challenging worldly issues such as the schoolboy jousting of Parliamentarians, the idle corruption of superannuated Senators and the shall-we-shan’t-we of shale oil recovery.

Frustrated by the continuing whitewash and outright falsehood embodied in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the sovereign Mohawk Nation of Grand River began excavating for children’s remains, to ‘finally give them a proper burial and bring to justice those who killed them,” according to Mohawk Elder and hereditary Chief Bill Squire.

Initial indications on the first day confirmed former eyewitness accounts concerning the death and burial of many children at the Brantford School and the attempts at cover-up of those incidents and their remains.

Which brings us to the more recent statement at UBC. While Justice Murray Sinclair was holding forth about truth and reconciliation, Professor Neil Keating of the State University of New York, as curator, in concert with Mohawk artist R. G. Miller, issued the following statement, which was read at a UBC conference:

I, R. G. Miller am an artist from the Six Nations Grand River Territory, and was put into the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School (a.k.a. the Mush Hole) when I was 2 years old. I was kept there for the next 11 years, during which I experienced first hand what happened in Indian Residential School: chronic rape, physical and psychological violence, malnourishment, and no love at all. I went on to become a successful landscape and portrait painter in my life, but I will never forget what happened to me in the Mush Hole.

In 2008 I finally expressed my memories in my art, and with the collaboration of Professor Neal Keating as curator, I put together a large exhibit that tells my truth about my experience, and invites other survivors to tell theirs. Although the exhibit was well received by my people, the state (including the TRC) completely ignored it; when we attempted to travel the exhibit in Canada, we found that few institutions were willing to take it.

When we sent a request to the TRC for support in documenting the exhibit as a commemorative activity, it was mysteriously lost… When we gave an invited presentation of the exhibit and its meaning at the National Gallery in Ottawa, we were impolitely asked to leave, and were literally shown the door. We see a pattern of evasive government at work in all this.

We believe the Canada Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a sham and a national disgrace, for both Indigenous peoples and non-Native Canadian citizens. We say this because we see no evidence that the Commission is producing any truth, nor is it asking the honest question that really counts: Was the Indian residential school program in Canada a program of genocide?

The experience and research that we do have access to supports the hypothesis of genocide and suggests an intent to destroy national groups of distinct peoples in order to seize their lands, territories, and resources. We suspect that the outcome of the TRC will be an equally restricted account, that will ignore the honest question, much as it ignored my art.

We think the TRC’s shortcomings are symptomatic of a larger NATIONAL MALAISE that is going untreated, and getting worse. We are not done, and are actively seeking alternative paths to bring this exhibit into national and international awareness. We think this exhibit tells more truth than the TRC is capable of bearing. We invite the TRC to prove us wrong.

Since the formation of the TRC in 2009, I and others have attempted to highlight and expose this federally choreographed farce in its elaborate funding of itself and its distinguished guests, while forcing native witnesses at Winnipeg, Inuvik, Halifax, Port Alberni, and Prince Albert (so far) to pay their own way; how selected surviving witnesses are coached as to what they can say and how, not to name any people or churches or (Heaven forbid!) government figures; how the patronizing politeness to the witnesses occurs while the CBC cameras are rolling, how the cruelty and contempt is shown them otherwise, replicating the trauma rather than any “healing” to the victims. The bottom line: the ridiculously bland solutions are routinely band-aided over our national horror story.

Reverend Kevin Annett has little time to dwell on the nonsense of official Canada’s Commission. He has lived its subject matter for 20 years, and has the scars, mental, emotional, financial, and physical to prove it. And he has provided more documentation — free to Canadian taxpayers, in three books and an award-winning feature film — than the laborious compilation of 115 pages of carefully censored testimony produced as a result of the $68 million expended by the TRC over the past four years.

As for R.G. Miller’s powerful artistic statement: it has been rendered in his outstanding (although suppressed) exhibition, which should be a national inflection point for us all, together with the voice of the curator, Professor Neil Keating, and their landmark declaration concerning the true nature of the farce foisted on Canadian taxpayers, we can only comment that Kevin Annett’s efforts could not be in better company.

As this is written, Kevin Annett is about to return to Europe, on a continuing extension of a mission that has expanded the work of the nine-nation International Common Law Citizens’ Court, indicting major government and religious figures — in Canada, the U.K., and Rome — for crimes against humanity. Interest has been expressed by more than one European country, of which the courts — with a legal precedent in Spain — may eventually echo the convictions that have taken place.

History teaches us that, through inertia and lack of communication, the people are slow to move. But sooner or later they always do.

Bill Annett writes four newsletters: The Canadian Shield, American Logo, Beating the Street, and The Oyster World. He can be reached at: hoople84@gmail.com. Read other articles by Bill.