Prosecuting and Punishing Genocide in Canada

Kevin Annett

Murder by Decree: The Crime of Genocide in Canada: A Counter Report to the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”

[Editor's note: While we at Tikkun are outraged at what has so far been uncovered about the multiple murders of indigenous children, we do not have the staff that could verify the additional information provided in this article. What it reports is consistent with the information already presented in Canadian media, and consistent with the large body of information of how indigenous people have been treated by colonizers and their religious institutions. What author Kevin Annett presents below should be a stimulus for more study of the facts rather than as a set of conclusions that Tikkun has the info or staff to verify.
--Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor  Rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com]


Prosecuting and Punishing Genocide in Canada

by Kevin Annett

When wrongdoing is an act of State, there can be no regret and no justice.

- Simon Wiesenthal

The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish … Persons committing genocide shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

– From the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948

Just before he died from a police beating in Vancouver, Johnny Dawson spoke to me about all the children he routinely buried at the St. Michael’s Anglican Indian school in Alert Bay, British Columbia during the 1960s.

“Those bodies were so little, I’ll never forget it. Shrunk down to nothing from never eating.  But we ran out of ground, so we had to start shoving those kids in the school furnace. The Mounties and the priests showed up to supervise us when we burned them up. They used to laugh and clap while we were doing it. Brother Clancy told me, ‘There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s all legal, we’re solving the Indian problem.’ Everybody knew it was happening, you could smell that stench for miles. They’re just pretending now they didn’t know.”

The deliberate killing of generations of indigenous children by Canadian Church and State has been known and reported for over a century, as has the location of dozens of mass graves containing the remains of those innocents. Only recently has the world chosen to notice - like the relatives of a serial killer who claim to be unaware of what lies buried beneath their house. But ignorance of a crime is no defense under the law, for any of us.

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For the past quarter-century and against enormous odds and censorship, I have led the public campaign to expose and prosecute the deaths of more than 60,000 children by the Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada in their misnamed “Indian residential schools”. Between 1889 and 1996, every action defined as Genocide in the United Nations Convention by that name occurred in these Christian internment camps, with the full sanction and funding of the government of Canada and British Crown.

At these killing grounds and in adjoining Indian hospitals, children were routinely starved, beaten and raped to death, exposed to diseases, sexually sterilized, experimented on, and slowly tortured and worked to death by clergy, doctors, and school staff. Evidence shows that since 1910 a prescribed monthly death quota was in place as part of a general plan to depopulate aboriginals in the western regions of Canada, making them “pagan free”. And yet now, in gross violation of international law, these murderous churches and the Canadian government are actively obstructing justice by destroying the mass graves of their little victims that hold the forensic proof of their crimes. They are even shaping the official narrative of those crimes and whitewashing their atrocities, as the world looks on.

The Hindu writer Krishnamurti observed that it takes only a few to commit a crime but an entire community to conceal it. In our case, the criminals were more than a few – comprising all official Canadian society - and so the concealment has been absolute.

Where else but in an intrinsically genocidal country can a staggering death rate of over 60% in residential schools make major headline news in 1907 and again in 2007, and cause not a ripple of protest or litigation? The mass murder of children has been normalized and trivialized in my country. Or in the words of the United Church of Canada official who expelled me from my pulpit in 1995 for speaking of our homegrown Holocaust,

“We know all about those deaths. The only problem is that you wrote a letter about it.”

Despite the present media hoopla about the “opening” of the graves of residential school children, the sites are sealed off to the press and public by the same agency that often dug the graves: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The government has been forced to acknowledge that “some” children died while obfuscating their own statistics that show that half of them never returned. And the state-managed Canadian media is portraying the planned extermination of generations of children as a crime without criminals, ignoring the unavoidable issues of who is responsible and how and when they will be put on trial for Crimes against Humanity.

Canada’s biggest crime and coverup is relying on the three-second memory of its people. On five different occasions since 1998, our movement publicized the hard proof of twenty-eight body dumping sites at former residential schools and Indian hospitals across Canada, to the complete indifference of the press, police, and public. In October 2011, we conducted an accredited excavation at the Mohawk residential school in Brantford, Ontario with the approval of local elders. That dig produced bones that were analyzed and confirmed to be that of young children. But once more, not a single media reported this historic news.

So what is different now? Why are aboriginal children's graves suddenly an acceptable and government-approved item in the news? In a nutshell, because it is safe now for Canada to surface the issue in a standard controlled spin operation, since most of the mass graves have been systematically destroyed by the RCMP and state-funded native band councils. The government has admitted that since 1960 their document destruction teams had been pulping incriminating evidence from residential school archives, including death records and daily “punishment logs”. And any lingering survivors and eyewitnesses have been silenced with paltry financial settlements and legal gag orders. So what better time than now for a big public relations gesture by the Trudeau government, beset as it is by a growing scandal about its complicity with China’s takeover of the Canadian economy?

The truth is that the recent disclosure of children’s graves is nothing less than the final episode in the long campaign by Canadian Church and State to hide their crimes. The evidence is once more being obliterated by the perpetrators. This of course is the standard behavior of every genocidal regime in history. The real issue today is not what such a regime is doing to protect itself, but what the rest of humanity is obligated to do to stop it.

International law is very clear and explicit in the little matter of genocide: the guilty, whether high or low, are to be prosecuted and punished. That is the theory, at least. In practice, the UN Convention on Genocide has only been acted upon twice since its inception in 1948, in the case of Rwanda and Serbia. No major power, whether secular or religious, has ever been prosecuted for genocide for the simple reason described to me by a senior UN diplomat in 2008:

“Every western nation committed those crimes against aboriginal people, so nobody wants to open that can of worms. It’s an unwritten law that nations do not throw stones at each other on an issue that can rebound on them.”

That pessimistic appraisal has been born out recently in the ease with which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly admitted to genocide in Canada on June 4, 2019 without provoking a war crimes trial or even a single protest from the international community. As race-targeted discriminatory legislation, Canada’s Indian Act is outlawed under international law, but continues to operate, subordinating natives as non-persons under the law and allowing any Indian to be killed or have their children seized and trafficked without legal consequence. Why then is the world so shocked by the mass graves of native children in Canada?

Regardless of the realpolitik limitations of UN conventions, it remains the legal responsibility and duty of every nation to aid in prosecuting and punishing Canada and its churches for their century-old and ongoing genocide of indigenous people. That effort includes imposing economic sanctions and trade and tourism boycotts on Canada as a rogue nation. The recent effort by Russia and other countries to indict Canada for its crimes is welcomed, but politically correct talk must be accompanied by sustained political action. That includes diplomatically recognizing sovereign indigenous nations and the nascent movement to disestablish a criminal Crown authority in Canada and create a new Republic.

It is equally imperative for people of conscience everywhere to take their own actions to stop ongoing crimes against children by the Church of Rome, from which so many of the crimes against native people in Canada emerged. Canadians, like people everywhere, are obligated by international law not to aid or abet their own government and churches in their crimes and cover ups, including by withholding their taxes and tithings.   

All these efforts are not simply a nice idea but a matter of life and death for the children still being trafficked and killed across Canada; for the northern native communities facing extinction at the hands of foreign multinational corporations; and for those of us who have risked everything and become targeted pariahs in our own country for daring to confront the government and churches for their intergenerational atrocities.

Do not fail us. Do not forget and neglect the murdered children and the ones who will disappear tomorrow if we do not act.


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