Anonymous burials of indigenous children | A slippery slope

The federal government is considering criminalizing residential school denialism, as Kimberly Murray, independent special interlocutor for missing children and unmarked graves and burials, will recommend in her final report in June.


Posted at 1:25 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

“The final recommendations of Mr.me Murray will be essential for the establishment of a federal legal framework which will preserve and protect the rights and respect the dignity of the children buried in unmarked graves and burial sites linked to the native residential schools”, points out Chantalle Aubertin, attaché of press release from the Minister of Justice, Arif Virani.

However, one of these recommendations will be to criminalize incitement to hatred of Aboriginal people by denying the existence of residential schools or by minimizing what happened in these establishments.

“I hope the government will amend the Criminal Code, as it did for the Holocaust [en 2022, pour en interdire le négationnisme]so that inciting hatred against indigenous communities, in connection with residential schools, becomes a crime,” confides Kimberly Murray in an interview.

Justin Trudeau’s government seems ready to venture down what seems to me to be a slippery slope. Already, last November, David Lametti, predecessor of Minister Virani, had shown himself willing to modify the Criminal Code in this direction.

“We must not ignore the lasting impact that these schools had on indigenous peoples – an intergenerational trauma that continues to be felt today,” emphasizes Minister Virani’s press secretary. The denial of atrocities committed is painful for survivors, their families and their communities. »

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PHOTO JEFF MCINTOSH, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Residential school denialism could soon become criminal in Canada.

In its 2024 budget, Ottawa also proposes to pay $5 million over three years to “establish a program to combat the denial of the reality of residential schools”.

This denial is reportedly becoming more and more widespread – and increasingly threatening to communities engaged in the arduous task of tracing their missing children. We’re not just talking about a handful of hotheads showing up at burial sites with their shovels in the middle of the night, as happened in Kamloops.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation told Kimberly Murray that “the hatred and racism was so intense that she no longer uses social media without strong filters.” In his preliminary report, in 2023, Mme Murray already denounced this negationism which had become “violent” and “prolific”.

If the government moves forward, it may face some resistance.

After all, hate speech is already prohibited by the Criminal Code. Should residential school denial be specifically banned? Do we not risk, in this way, proscribing all debate? Would our file on the subject be considered negationist?

Read our file “Anonymous burials of indigenous children: The great misunderstanding”

For his part, the historian Jacques Rouillard obviously rejects this infamous label. “They want to silence us,” he says. “We do not deny the existence of abuses that may have occurred in residential schools. But it’s the idea that there were murders…those claims are not supported by facts. »

Jacques Rouillard sticks to what has been recorded in the ecclesiastical archives. He also admits to “presenting the religious point of view”. This is of course only one side of the story, but I doubt that censoring it will bring us any closer to the truth and, one day, reconciliation.

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