“It was the Mounties who were delivering the women to Pickton’s farm to be raped and killed on film. They told me so.” – Annie Parker, Pickton farm survivor, to the author, January 2006
“Ten years from now, nobody will care about any of these horrors you’ve uncovered. The feds will hold an expensive Royal Commission into the Indian residential schools to cover this all up and put everyone back to sleep.” – Vancouver radio host Rafe Mair to the author, May 2000
Despite their generally well deserved reputation for being Lotus eaters, I don’t believe that west coast Canadians are any more brainless or politically native than your average citizen – appearances to the contrary these days.
With a decided lack of fervor as typically Canadian as cold maple syrup, both the federal and the provincial governments are staging dual inquiries into their own crimes this week here in Lotus Land.
After officially exonerating the churches that engineered the slaughter, the feds are pretending to search for 50,000 children chopped up in their “Indian residential schools”; while a former Attorney General who helped derail repeated inquiries into hundreds of missing aboriginal women, Wally Oppal, is heading an investigation into his police buddies who regularly rape and kill women on Vancouver’s streets.
No surprise there. That’s what guilty governments get to do, after all.
I don’t find the process of self-exculpation by the wealthy particularly unexpected or a cause for moral outrage. Shit, the government and their church allies have been hiding all those little brown bodies and shredding evidence from the residential schools for decades now. They’ve even admitted it. Their self-appointed whitewash they call a “truth and reconciliation commission” (TRC) is just the final icing on the cake; or more accurately, the topsoil on the grave.
What does startle me is how so many Canadians, and victims, really and truly believe that the same people who did them such harm and put those innocents in the ground are going to come clean and reveal it all.
I know a lot of the native men and women who will be flocking to Port Alberni tomorrow to stand so hopefully in front of the three trained seals calling themselves “TRC Commissioners”, and will once again walk on razors and rip out their innards in order to tell the government what it already knows – in no small part because I’ve been publishing the truth since 1996.
Many of these survivors first told me of the crime twenty years ago, in the little Port Alberni church called St. Andrew’s United where I let them speak freely about it from my pulpit, and from where the world began to learn that Christian Canada means genocide.
So it’s a very odd feeling to see the same people – those who are still alive – once again speak publicly of murders and mass graves when in the decades since they first spoke thus in my church, and after their stories have spread around the world, not a single person in Canada has ever faced trial for a residential school killing; and not an ounce of soil has been turned at the mass grave behind the Alberni school to bring home the children tossed there by United Church ministers, and Mounties.
I’ve been threatened, harassed and physically attacked by government-paid tribal council goons when I go back to Port Alberni, to the place where it all began for me in 1992; and the TRC, I’ve been told, has a standing policy to bar me from all of its events. So I don’t relish trying to show up at their bullshit forum tomorrow in the town where I lost my own children.
But yesterday, a desperate man asked me to come.
I’ll call him Arnold. He used to attend my church and help me deliver food to the local Tseshaht reservation’s hungry kids. And in 1968, he saw a little girl get beaten to death at the Alberni residential school by a church matron called Mrs. Frale.
“Everybody wants you there” Arnold told me outright over the phone.
“I know” I replied, wanting to say more.
“But I don’t blame you if you don’t come” he continued. “Ron Hamilton has his people watching for you. They won’t let you speak, he said so.”
After a pause, Arnold said,
“We play along because we’ve been told to. But everybody knows the truth, even if they’re not saying.”
Arnold’s words prompted me to write this piece, and wonder aloud to all of you who so rarely reply to my discourses why it is that we have to keep the lie alive, with such effort and sincerity. When will the truth be given more than a hearing, but be armed with the same power to change and overturn that all the sordid shit now enjoys?
I lost my pulpit and my family for people like Arnold, and in 2010, I was stripped of my decade long radio program at Vancouver Co-op Radio after I gave voice over the airwaves to an eyewitness who saw two RCMP officers bring native women to be killed at serial killer Willie Pickton’s Coquitlam farm.
Two of my friends who voiced the same story were murdered by Vancouver police: Johnny Dawson and Ricky Lavallee.
There’s always a cost for the truth, and the question is always, who will pay it. The truth is costly when it implicates those who can still do us harm, and none of us wants to be the one, naturally, to step on such toes and bring down such wrath upon our own heads.
But there are a few just souls, I think the Bible calls them, who don’t count such a cost, but are more burdened by what will happen to others if they don’t act than by their own fears. Ricky and Johnny were such souls. And I suppose I am one too.
After years of toil and loss, I’ve changed, and I realize now that we are the means of our own justice, and that documenting a crime is often just a way to avoid doing anything to actually stop it. So even if the TRC fiasco was run by survivors themselves and had the power to try and jail the church leaders fiducially responsible for all those residential school deaths, even then, the essential act would be missing. For it is time to undo what bred the thing we call European Genocide, and which continues to rip up and poison our land, and rape and traffic children without fear of penalty.
We can start by ignoring the expensive distractions staged by the government to make us think that the crimes will be uncovered and stopped by them.
Only we can do that, for the simple reason that for every honest cop there are two or three who deal drugs, clobber the homeless, rape women, and protect those who do. And behind every “honest priest” there stands a Vatican policy, enshrined in their self-governing “canon law”, which commands every catholic clergy to conceal child rape in the church, and silence the victim – a policy mirrored in every major Protestant church, as well.
Last night, as I sat despondently and wrestled with my sense that I might let down Arnold, and all the other Port Alberni survivors, I heard from a friend in Wexford, Ireland.
He told me excitedly that he and a few others planned to drag out a known child raping priest from his church this next Sunday, and publicly strip him of his vestments.
“Some of us are scared, Kev” he declared. “But Jesus, who else is gonna defrock that bastard and save the next child?”
Carry it on.