Vicky Sepass: My role in her death, and my own

by Kevin D. Annett

 

Punishment is now unfashionable. We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility.                                                            Thomas Szasz

The federal government conducted experiments on First Nations children in residential schools … One of the schools was located in Port Alberni.                                                                                                                           Southam News Service, April 26, 2000

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She was slightly older than me, but we would have been in the same grade in United Church Sunday school class, which we both attended as children. Every worship day, I wore a proper suit and tie and clutched my white offering envelope in which a single Canadian dollar would help fill the coffers of what the United Church still calls its “Mission and Service Fund”. But Vicky Sepass wore a shabby grey uniform and had nothing to put in the plate on Sundays, for she herself was the offering.

Church life for me began in Westworth United Church in a leafy Winnipeg suburb known as River Heights; but for Vicky, it began and ended within the dank walls of the Port Alberni Indian residential school. She died there sometime during March in the year 1965, when she and I were both nine years old.

I helped pay for her murder.

It may have taken a month for Vicky Sepass to starve to death in the special isolation ward where she was held without food and studied by military doctors as she wasted away. It was all part of an experiment to test human endurance to torture and trauma, arranged through an agreement between the United Church of Canada and the Defense Research Board in Ottawa. Test subjects were routinely raped, beaten and starved to death, and their responses and mental alacrity were carefully noted.

“They always raped me when they had me strapped down. Always. I got it every day like clockwork” remembers Kenny Quatell, who survived the same experiment at the United Church-run Nanaimo Indian Hospital.

The money to fund these “experiments” came through a joint sharing agreement between the feds and the United Church, the latter relying on its Mission and Service Fund, and my faithful giving to it every Sunday.
At the time, I was told that my offering would go towards accomplishing God’s work, just like United Church parishioners are still told.
Perhaps it is part of any possible recompense I can make to Vicky Sepass that one day my life and work was destroyed by the very same Mission and Service Fund that killed her, barely a mile from where she died. For as an untraceable slush fund, the M and S paid the lawyers and black ops experts who arranged the destruction of my family and my position as the minister of St. Andrew’s United Church, and who continue to conceal what the church did to both Vicky and me.

The little white offering envelopes are still clutched every Sunday morning by the next young crop of unwitting killers. It’s still business as usual for the Mission and Service Fund, since of course the United Church got away with all of its atrocities, and made itself feel good and smug in the process. Normally, funds used for criminal purposes would be seized by the courts. But this is Canada, and the killers are still in charge.

After decades of battling this beast, and not changing it, I’ve realized what many “social activists” sense but rarely acknowledge: that we cannot bring down something that we ourselves are a part of. Rarely do we put ourselves in the equation of systemic evil, for the enemy, and the “real” problem, is always something and someone other than ourselves.

But I remember my blood money in the white envelope, and the joyful hymns and congratulatory praise I helped to heap on a church that was dissecting Vicky Sepass like a lab rat at that very same moment. And it was only when I fully embraced my role in her death that something in me was freed to step away from it, and disestablish that church and all that it represents first in my own heart and mind, and then in the world.
Repenting from evil and our own complicit guilt isn’t about indulging in gestures or a lot of apologetic talk, according to the Bible that is still quoted in United Churches: it’s about actively walking away from and bringing to nothing whatever caused the evil. If I’ve been able to help accomplish that, it’s because I knew first that I was a denizen of its dark city, and I had to leave it without looking back, lest, like Lot’s wife gazing longingly at Sodom and Gomorrah, I be consumed in its final destruction. And that demise of the fallen churches is approaching.

As for Vicky Sepass and all those other children who will die tomorrow at the hands of unaccountable power, they remain more than anything a legion of searching, implacable eyes, and an enormous and enduring question mark, directed at each one of us: but especially at all the slumbering United Church members who today keep funding the filth and its lies with a sweet hymn on their lips.

www.itccs.org

http://youtu.be/GyjeoS2PMMM