HIDDEN FROM HISTORY
The Canadian Holocaust
Through the Canadian residential school system, the Christian churches along with state authorities, the judiciary, doctors and the police implemented a policy of genocide against the native population.
Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 9, Number 2 (February-March 2002)
(The following is an edited extract from the report, "Hidden From History: The Canadian Holocaust - The Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples by Church and State in Canada - A Summary of an Ongoing, Independent Inquiry into Canadian Native 'Residential Schools' and their Legacy", by Rev. Kevin D. Annett, MA, MDiv. The report is published by The Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada, a public investigative body continuing the work of previous Tribunals into native residential schools: The Justice in the Valley Coalition's Inquiry into Crimes Against Aboriginal People, convened in Port Alberni, British Columbia, on December 9, 1994, and The International Human Rights Association of American Minorities Tribunal into Canadian Residential Schools, held in Vancouver, BC, from June 12-14, 1998. Editor.)
The Holocaust is continuing.
This report is the child of a six-year independent
investigation into the hidden history of genocide against aboriginal
peoples in Canada. It summarises the testimonies, documents and
other evidence proving that Canadian churches, corporations and the
government are guilty of intentional genocide, in violation of the
United Nations Convention on Genocide, which Canada ratified in 1952
and under which it is bound by international law.
(Rev.) Kevin D. Annett
PART ONE: Summary of Evidence of Intentional Genocide in Canadian Residential Schools
Article II: The intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnic, racial or religious group; namely, non-Christian aboriginal peoples in Canada
The foundational purpose behind the more than one hundred Indian residential schools established in Canada by government legislation and administered by Protestant and Catholic churches was the deliberate and persistent eradication of aboriginal people and their culture, and the conversion of any surviving native people to Christianity.
This intent was enunciated in the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 in Upper Canada, and earlier, church-inspired legislation, which defined aboriginal culture as inferior, stripped native people of citizenship and subordinated them in a separate legal category from non-Indians. This Act served as the basis for the federal Indian Act of 1874, which recapitulated the legal and moral inferiority of aboriginals and established the residential school system. The legal definition of an Indian as "an uncivilized person, destitute of the knowledge of God and of any fixed and clear belief in religion" (Revised Statutes of British Columbia, 1960) was established by these Acts and continues to the present day.
Then, as now, aboriginals were considered legal and practical non-entities in their own land and, hence, inherently expendable.
This genocidal intent was restated time and again in government legislation, church statements and the correspondence and records of missionaries, Indian agents and residential school officials (see Documentation section). Indeed, it was the very raison d'être of the state-sanctioned Christian invasion of traditional native territories and of the residential school system itself, which was established at the height of European expansionism in the 1880s and persisted until 1984.
By definition, this aim was genocidal, for it planned and carried out the destruction of a religious and ethnic group: all those aboriginal people who would not convert to Christianity and be culturally extinguished. Non-Christian natives were the declared target of the residential schools, which practised wholesale ethnic cleansing under the guise of education.
As well, such "pagans" were the subject of government-funded sterilisation programs administered at church-run hospitals and tuberculosis sanatoriums on Canada's west coast (see Article IId).
According to an eyewitness, Ethel Wilson of Bella
Bella, BC, a United Church missionary doctor, George Darby,
deliberately sterilised non-Christian Indians between 1928 and 1962
at the R. W. Large Memorial Hospital in Bella Bella. Ms Wilson,
who is now deceased, stated in 1998:
According to Christy White, a resident of Bella
Bella, records of these government-funded sterilisations at the R. W.
Large Hospital were deliberately destroyed in 1995, soon after a
much-publicised police investigation was to open into residential
school atrocities in British Columbia. Ms White stated in 1998:
Legislation permitting the sterilisation of any residential school inmate was passed in BC in 1933 and in Alberta in 1928 (see "Sterilization Victims Urged to Come Forward" by Sabrina Whyatt, Windspeaker, August 1998). The Sexual Sterilization Act of BC allowed a school principal to permit the sterilisation of any native person under his charge. As their legal guardian, the principal could thus have any native child sterilised. Frequently, these sterilisations occurred to whole groups of native children when they reached puberty, in institutions like the Provincial Training School in Red Deer, Alberta, and the Ponoka Mental Hospital. (Former nurse Pat Taylor to Kevin Annett, January 13, 2000)
Of equal historical significance is the fact that the Canadian federal government passed legislation in 1920, making it mandatory for all native children in British Columbia - the west coast of which was the least Christianised area among aboriginals in Canada - to attend residential schools, despite the fact that the same government had already acknowledged that the death rate due to communicable diseases was much higher in these schools and that, while there, the native children's "constitution is so weakened that they have no vitality to withstand disease". (A. W. Neill, West Coast Indian Agent, to Secretary of Indian Affairs, April 25, 1910)
That is, the Canadian government legally compelled the attendance of the most "pagan" and least assimilated of the native peoples in residential schools at precisely the time when the death rate in these schools had reached their pinnacle - about 40%, according to Indian Affairs officers like Dr Peter Bryce. This fact alone suggests a genocidal intent towards non-Christian aboriginals.
Article II (a): Killing members of the group intended to be destroyed
That aboriginal people were deliberately killed in the residential schools is confirmed by eyewitness testimonies, government records and statements of Indian agents and tribal elders. It is also strongly suggested by the bare fact that the mortality level in residential schools averaged 40%, with the deaths of more than 50,000 native children across Canada (see Bibliography, inc. the report of Dr Peter Bryce to Department of Indian Affairs Superintendent Duncan Campbell Scott, April 1909).
The fact, as well, that this death rate stayed constant across the years, and within the schools and facilities of every denomination which ran them - Roman Catholic, United, Presbyterian or Anglican - suggests that common conditions and policies were behind these deaths. For every second child to die in the residential school system eliminates the possibility that these deaths were merely accidental or the actions of a few depraved individuals acting alone without protection.
Yet not only was this system inherently murderous, but it operated under the legal and structural conditions which encouraged, aided and abetted murder and which were designed to conceal these crimes.
The residential schools were structured like concentration camps, on a hierarchical military basis under the absolute control of a principal appointed jointly by church and state, and who was usually a clergyman. This principal was even given legal guardianship rights over all students during the early 1930s by the federal government, at least in west coast residential schools. This action by the government was highly unusual, considering that native people were by law the legal wards of the state, and had been so since the commencement of the Indian Act. And yet such absolute power of the school principal over the lives of aboriginal students was a requirement of any system whose killing of aboriginals had to be disguised and later denied.
The residential schools were constructed behind this deception in such a way that the deaths and atrocities that constitute genocide could be hidden and eventually explained. In the Canadian context, this meant a policy of gradual but deliberate extermination under a protective legal umbrella, administered by "legitimate and trusted" institutions: the mainline churches.
It should be clarified from the outset that the
decisions concerning the residential schools, including those which
caused the deaths of children and resulting cover-ups, were
officially sanctioned by every level of the churches that ran them
and the government which created them. Only such sanction could have
allowed the deaths to continue as they did - and the perpetrators to
feel protected enough to operate with impunity for many years within
the system, which they universally did.
In 1909, Dr Peter Bryce of the Ontario Health Department was hired by the Indian Affairs Department in Ottawa to tour the Indian residential schools in western Canada and British Columbia and report on the health conditions there. Bryce's report so scandalised the government and the churches that it was officially buried and only surfaced in 1922 when Bryce - who was forced out of the civil service for the honesty of his report - wrote a book about it, entitled The Story of a National Crime (Ottawa, 1922).
In his report, Dr Bryce claimed that Indian children were being systematically and deliberately killed in the residential schools. He cited an average mortality rate of between 35% and 60%, and alleged that staff and church officials were regularly withholding or falsifying records and other evidence of children's deaths.
Further, Dr Bryce claimed that a primary means of killing native children was to deliberately expose them to communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and then deny them any medical care or treatment - a practice actually referred to by top Anglican Church leaders in the Globe and Mail on May 29, 1953.
In March 1998, two native eyewitnesses who
attended west coast residential schools, William and Mabel Sport
of Nanaimo, BC, confirmed Dr Bryce's allegation. Both of them
claim to have been deliberately exposed to tuberculosis by staff at
both a Catholic and a United Church residential school during the
Reverend Pitts, the Alberni school
principal, he forced me and eight other boys to eat this special food
out of a different sort of can. It tasted really strange. And then
all of us came down with tuberculosis. I was the only one to
survive, 'cause my Dad broke into the school one night and got me out
of there. All of the rest died from tuberculosis and they were never
treated. Just left there to die. And their families were all told
they had died of pneumonia. The plan was to kill us off in secret,
you know. We all just began dying after eating that food. Two of my
best friends were in that group that was poisoned. We were never
allowed to speak of it or go into the basement, where other murders
happened. It was a death sentence to be sent to the Alberni
school. (Testimony of William Sport to
IHRAAM officers, Port Alberni, BC, March 31, 1998)
More overt killings of children were a common occurrence in residential schools, according to eyewitnesses. The latter have described children being beaten and starved to death, thrown from windows, strangled and being kicked or thrown down stairs to their deaths. Such killings occurred in at least eight residential schools in British Columbia alone, run by all three mainline denominations.
Bill Seward of Nanaimo, BC, age 78, states:
Diane Harris, Community Health Worker for the
Chemainus Band Council on Vancouver Island, confirms accounts of the
Evidence exists that active collusion from police, hospital officials, coroners, Indian Agents and even native leaders helped to conceal such murders. Local hospitals, particularly tuberculosis sanatoriums connected to the United and Roman Catholic churches, served as "dumping grounds" for children's bodies and routinely provided false death certificates for murdered students.
In the case of the United Church's Alberni residential school, students who discovered dead bodies of other children faced serious retribution. One such witness, Harry Wilson of Bella Bella, BC, claims that he was expelled from the school, then hospitalised and drugged against his will, after finding the body of a dead girl in May 1967.
Sadly, the two-tiered system of collaborators and victims created among native students at the schools continues to the present, as some of the state-funded band council officials - themselves former collaborators - appear to have an interest in helping to suppress evidence and silence witnesses who would incriminate not only the murderers but themselves as agents of the white administration.
A majority of the witnesses who have shared their story with the authors and at public tribunals on the west coast have described either seeing a murder or discovering a body at the residential school he or she attended. The body count, even according to the government's own figures, was enormously high. Where, then, are all these bodies? The deaths of thousands of students are not recorded in any of the school records, Indian Affairs files or other documentation submitted thus far in court cases or academic publications on the residential schools. Some 50,000 corpses have literally and officially gone missing.
The residential school system had to hide not only
the evidence of murder but the bodies as well. The presence of
secret gravesites of children killed at Catholic and Protestant
schools in Sardis, Port Alberni, Kuper Island and Alert Bay has been
attested to by numerous witnesses. These secret burial yards also
contained the aborted foetuses and even small babies who were the
offspring of priests and staff at the schools, according to the same
witnesses. One of them, Ethel Wilson of Bella Bella, claims to
have seen "rows and rows of tiny skeletons" in the foundations of the
former Anglican residential school of St Michael's in Alert Bay when
a new school was built there in the 1960s.
Arnold Sylvester, who, like Dennis Charlie,
attended Kuper Island school between 1939 and 1945, corroborates this
Local hospitals were also used as a dumping ground for children's bodies, as in the case of the Edmonds boy and his "processing" at St Paul's Hospital after his murder at the Catholic school in North Vancouver. Certain hospitals, however, seem to have been particularly favourite spots for storing corpses.
The Nanaimo Tuberculosis Hospital (called The Indian Hospital) was one such facility. Under the guise of tuberculosis treatment, generations of native children and adults were subjected to medical experiments and sexual sterilisations at the Nanaimo Hospital, according to women who experienced these tortures (see Article IId). But the facility was also a cold storage area for native corpses.
The West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni not only stored children's bodies from the local United Church residential school; it was also the place where abortions were performed on native girls who were made pregnant at the school by staff and clergy, and where newborn babies were disposed of and possibly killed, according to witnesses like Amy Tallio, who attended the Alberni school during the early 1950s.
Irene Starr of the Hesquait Nation, who attended
the Alberni school between 1952 and 1961, confirms this.
Article II (b): Causing serious bodily or mental harm
Early in the residential schools era, the Indian Affairs Superintendent, Duncan Campbell Scott, outlined the purpose of the schools thus: "to kill the Indian within the Indian".
Clearly, the genocidal assault on aboriginals was not only physical but spiritual: European culture wished to own the minds and the souls of the native nations, to turn the Indians it hadn't killed into third-class replicas of white people.
Expressing the "virtues" of genocide, Alfred
Caldwell, principal of the United Church school in Ahousat on
Vancouver Island's west coast, wrote in 1938:
The fact that this same principal is named by eyewitnesses as the murderer of at least two children - one of them in the same month that he wrote this letter - is no accident, for cultural genocide spills effortlessly over into killing, as the Nazis proved so visibly to the world.
Nevertheless, Caldwell's letter illuminates two vital points for the purpose of this discussion of mental and bodily harm inflicted on native students: (a) the residential schools were a vast project in mind control, and (b) the underlying aim of this "re-programming" of native children was to force aboriginals off their ancestral lands in order to allow whites access to them.
To quote Alberni survivor Harriett Nahanee:
It was only after the assumption of guardianship powers by the west coast school principals, between 1933 and 1941, that the first evidence of organised pedophile networks in those residential schools emerges. For such a regime was legally and morally free to do whatever it wanted to its captive native students.
The residential schools became a safe haven - one survivor calls it a "free fire zone" - for pedophiles, murderers and brutal doctors needing live test subjects for drug testing or genetic and cancer research.
Particular schools, such as the Catholic one at Kuper Island and the United Church's Alberni school, became special centres where extermination techniques were practised with impunity on native children from all over the province, alongside the usual routine of beatings, rapes and farming out of children to influential pedophiles.
Much of the overt mental and bodily harm done to native students was designed to break down traditional tribal loyalties along kinship lines by pitting children against each other and cutting them off from their natural bonds. Boys and girls were strictly segregated in separate dormitories and could never meet.
One survivor describes never seeing her little
brother for years, even though he was in the same building at the
Alert Bay Anglican school. And when children at the schools broke
into each other's dormitories and older boys and girls were caught
exchanging intimacies, the most severe punishments were universally
applied. According to a female survivor who attended the Alberni
school in 1959:
According to Harriett Nahanee:
The nature of that system of torture was not haphazard. For example, the regular use of electric shocks on children who spoke their language or were "disobedient" was a widespread phenomenon in residential schools of every denomination across Canada. This was not a random but an institutionalised device.
Specially constructed torture chambers with permanent electric chairs, often operated by medical personnel, existed at the Alberni and Kuper Island schools in British Columbia, at the Spanish Catholic school in Ontario, and in isolated hospital facilities run by the churches and Department of Indian Affairs in northern Quebec, Vancouver Island and rural Alberta, according to eyewitnesses.
Mary Anne Nakogee-Davis of Thunder Bay, Ontario,
was tortured in an electric chair by nuns at the Catholic Spanish
residential school in 1963 when she was eight years old. She
Such torture also occurred at facilities operated by the churches with Department of Indian Affairs money, similar to the sterilisation programs identified at the W. R. Large Memorial Hospital in Bella Bella and the Nanaimo Indian Hospital.
Frank Martin, a Carrier native from northern BC,
describes his forcible confinement and use in experiments at the
Brannen Lake Reform School near Nanaimo in 1963 and 1964:
Such quack experimentation combined with brutal
sadism characterised these publicly funded facilities, especially the
notorious Nanaimo Indian Hospital. David Martin of Powell River, BC,
was taken to this hospital in 1958 at the age of five and used in
experiments attested to by Joan Morris, Harry Wilson and other
witnesses quoted in this report. According to David:
A recurring and regular torture at the residential schools themselves was operating on children's teeth without using any form of anaesthesia or painkiller. Two separate victims of this torture at the Alberni school describe being subjected to it by different dentists, decades apart. Harriett Nahanee was brutalised in that manner in 1946, while Dennis Tallio was "worked on by a sick old guy who never gave me painkillers" at the same school in 1965.
Dr Josef Mengele is reputed by survivors of his experiments to have worked out of Cornell University in New York, Bristol Labs in Syracuse, New York, and Upjohn Corporation and Bayer laboratories in Ontario. Mengele and his Canadian researchers, like the notorious Montreal psychiatrist Ewen Cameron, used prisoners, mental patients and native children from reserves and residential schools in their efforts to erase and reshape human memory and personality, using drugs, electric shocks and trauma-inducing methods identical to those employed for years in the residential schools.
Former employees of the federal government have confirmed that the use of "inmates" of residential schools was authorised for government-run medical experiments through a joint agreement with the churches which ran the schools.
According to a former Indian Affairs official:
Such experiments and the sheer brutality of the
harm regularly inflicted on children in the schools attest to the
institutional view of aboriginals as "expendable" and "diseased"
beings. Scores of survivors of 10 different residential schools in
BC and Ontario have described under oath the following tortures
inflicted on them and other children as young as five years old
between the years 1922 and 1984:
Perhaps the clearest summary of the nature and
purpose of such sadism are the words of Bill Seward of Nanaimo, a
survivor of the Kuper Island school: