Kamloops Indian Residential School Photo: El Pais

How the Media (and Trudeau) Deceived Us About 215 Children Buried in Catholic Residential Schools in Canada

In 2021 the commotion over the announcement: «Bodies of indigenous children buried anonymously.» Trudeau demanded an apology from the Pope. But to date no excavation has been successful. The first, who spoke of covered tombs, adjusts his tone: «anomalies possibly due to the movement of roots.» Meanwhile, ninety-six churches across the country have been burned or desecrated

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(ZENIT News – Il Foglio / Rome, 19.05.2024).- At the end of May 2021, a Canadian Indian group summoned the media to report on the discovery of the buried remains of 215 Indian children in the vicinity of a Catholic residential school — the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The discovery, it was pointed out, was made possible thanks to  the exploration of a geo-radar, which took advantage of the electromagnetic waves, thus avoiding excavations. The shock was enormous, especially because the Kamloops Residential School was for a time the most important in Canada, until it closed after its control passed to the State in 1969. The New York Times described the matter as  a “horrible story.” However, two and a half years later, no corpse has been found, not even a bone.

The news of the finding of the children’s remains led Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during an ad hoc press conference, to ask the Catholic Church to “assume responsibility” immediately for what happened, urging it to publish all the documents relating to the institutions under its control. Not only that, Trudeau threatened “harsh measures,” including lawsuits, to oblige the Church to give in. “As a Catholic, I am profoundly disappointed in the position the Catholic Church has adopted now and in the last years,” said the Prime Minister. Trudeau wrenched from the Pope [an admission], recalling that as early as 2017, he had requested him to make a “formal apology,” and to take measures to account for the more than 4,100 students that it was believed died from sickness or malnutrition. On June 6, at the end of the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his “closeness to the Canadian people, traumatized  by the shocking news.” The sad discovery “sharpens even more the awareness of the pain and suffering of the past.” Meanwhile, 96 churches in Canada  were attacked, damaged, profaned and set on fire.

The most recent, on  December 15, 2023, was the church of Saint Gabriel’s Catholic Mission in Janvier, a hamlet in northern Alberta, Canada. Colonizers, “murderers,” “if you harm and /or kill children, you should be burnt alive,” were some of the inscriptions that appeared on the outside of sacred buildings. Although Trudeau condemned the events, he added  that at the root of these phenomena is the people’s “anger.” No excavation has been carried out since May 2021 in the environs of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and those 215 Indian children have turned out to be “irregularities of the terrain,” according to prudent retractions of local geologists, experts and technicians. Anthropologist Sarah Beaulieu, one of the first to carry out explorations of the terrain, corrected the affirmation that it was about “probable burials”  and that the anomalies of the ground could be due to “root movements.”

As Anna Farrow wrote a few days ago in a long article in the Catholic Herald, even in the places where excavations were carried out nothing was found, including fourteen excavations in a Catholic church in Manitoba, after important anomalies were detected. The result: no human body or remains were found. Excavations were made near the residential school of Shubenacadie, where there were allegedly sixteen burials, but nothing was found.

Up to thirty-four excavations were carried out in the grounds of the Charles Camsell Hospital in Alberta, again with no result.

The President of the Catholic League of Civil Rights, Philip Horgan, said to the Catholic Herald that too much noise had been made about the matter, a toxic narrative has bought about the toleration and justifications “of crimes against Catholics.” After all, “when statements continue to be made about the existence of common graves and disappeared children, without proofs, it’s probable that the majority of these criminal attacks will continue.” And it’s not about denying historical proofs, such as that of violence against indigenous peoples. Horgan says this because to every objection regarding the inexistence of common graves the answer is that “denial is violence and denialism is hate,” as Kimberley Murray said, spearhead of the campaign to find children’s remains buried in grounds of the residential schools.

The Pope apologized and expressed his regret to a delegation of Indians received in the Vatican and, in the summer of 2022, y travelled personally to Canada  and described the practice used between the 19th century and first half of the 20th as “cultural genocide” to snatch , including by force, children of the Indian communities and oblige them to “assimilate” to the rest of the local population, breaking every tie with their own customs and traditions. The recently published book “Grave Error: How the Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools”) includes eighteen reconstructions of what happened in Canada, not only after the news of the discovery of the alleged remains, but also reconstructing the history of the residential schools. There is no uniformity of thought among the experts, but they all agree on one point: “There are still no convincing proofs of the existence of anonymous graves, disappeared children, murders and genocides in the residential schools.”

The author is Editor in Chief  of the Italian newspaper Il Foglio who is concerned with topics related to the Pope and religion. Translation of the original in Italian into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester.

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