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BC teacher fired for sharing the truth about Indian Residential Schools speaks out

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Jim McMurtry

The End of Nuance

George W. Bush said famously to Congress after the 9-11 terrorist attack, “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Similarly, George Orwell said in 1942 that “in practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me.’ The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle…is a bourgeois illusion.”

My employer, the Abbotsford School District, showed me that I was not aloof from the struggle by investigating me for “extremely serious misconduct.” I had relayed to senior history students the “most important news in Canada in 2021,” which was that the remains of 215 Indigenous children had been discovered in a mass grave in an apple orchard on the site of a former Indian residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. This news led the Canadian government to declare itself guilty of genocide for having placed about one-third of First Nation children in long-ago-shuttered residential schools.

At the end of the partial and superficial investigation, I was fired. But, like the Joseph K. character in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, I knew I had done nothing wrong:

“But I’m not guilty,” said K. “there’s been a mistake. How is it even possible for someone to be guilty? We’re all human beings here, one like the other.” “That is true,” said the priest, “but that is how the guilty speak.”

My crime was in saying that most students who died while enrolled in these schools from 1883-1996 did so from disease, especially tuberculosis. Though factually true, the Abbotsford School District wrote to me in June 2021 that it was a time to hear from students “and not debate or challenge their emotional response to the news…. [Students] were struggling to make sense of the news and process the discovery.”

The problem was there was no discovery in Kamloops, and there still is no evidence whatsoever.

For the past three years the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have not conducted an investigation of the alleged murders; the archeologist’s report has been sealed by a local university (Simon Fraser University); and no excavation of the site has taken place.

The Abbotsford School District charged that “clearly it was not a time to play ‘devil’s advocate’ or to have a nuanced debate or discussion of the underlying reasons for these deaths…or push their thinking on the issue when students, as [with most] of the staff and general public, were struggling to make sense of the news.” It didn’t help that I was a history teacher: “Mr. McMurtry decided to use the class as an opportunity to teach a history lesson.”

The allegations kept changing. For example, they first accused me of saying “the deaths could not be called murder or cultural genocide,” but later they said that “my comments to students were inflammatory, inappropriate, insensitive and/or contrary to the school’s message of condolences and reconciliation.”

I noted, of course, that they replaced the word truth, as in Truth and Reconciliation, with condolences.

In time I realized that I was simply outside of an orthodoxy that was distorted by sensationalized headlines and cowardly journalistic practices. The woke employ a dual lens of good and bad, friend and foe. In their lynch-mob mentality, nuance and compassion get short shrift.

In the schools where I taught there is an administrative class of citizens who play the role of gatekeepers against unacceptable ideas, for they fear that a Trojan horse might get inside the walls and open the gate for other ideas to enter. In such a not-so-brave new world, you are with us or against us. There are no shades of allegiance, no nuance. As I was not with those administrators, they came for me.

I have been without a teaching job now for three years and my grievance against my employer is in abeyance while an investigation into my teaching by my regulatory body, the B.C. Teachers’ Regulation Branch (TRB), slowly unfolds. The TRB investigator’s report could take up to a year to write and a subsequent public hearing could consume another year of my life. The process is the punishment.

 

Jim McMurtry has taught in many subject areas in many places, including Switzerland where he was Principal of Neuchâtel Junior College. He lives in Surrey, B.C.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Inner city shoplifting and Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Giesbrecht

This problem is only made worse by gullible writers and politicians who make excuses for the thieves. Their excuse is that these people are disadvantaged, so they are less than fully responsible for their criminal conduct. Some sympathetic souls go even further, and suggest that these indigenous shoplifters are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs as “reparations” because the shop owners are on “stolen land”.

Winnipeg, Manitoba is being hit with an epidemic of shoplifting that appears to be out of control. Thieves openly steal expensive items, such as frozen meat, from inner city food stores. Shelves are stripped bare in what are more accurately described as robberies than shoplifting. Victims describe brazen thefts by entitled thieves who become indignant when caught in the act. One store employee, who tried to stop a theft, was told “You are on Treaty 1 territory”. The stores that are hardest hit are often owned by immigrant families who have worked very hard to build their modest businesses. Some have had to close, as a result of the unchecked criminality, and others will follow.

Police protection is weak. Even in rare cases where culprits are caught and prosecuted, sentences are minimal.

The problem of brazen theft from Winnipeg liquor stores reached such a serious level in the recent past that customers at urban liquor stores in Manitoba are now allowed to enter the store only after lining up single file, and producing identification. Liquor prices have risen as a result, because special government employees must be hired to sit at the door to inspect ID’s. Customers must line up outside, even on the coldest winter days, because freeloaders choose to steal liquor. And everyone – including the police – are too shy to confront the robbers.

Other western cities, such as Regina, Saskatoon and Thunder Bay are having similar problems. Even small cities, such as Wetaskiwin, Alberta, are hard hit.

The common element is that all of these cities and towns have significant indigenous populations who migrated to the cities from largely dysfunctional reserves, where attitudes of dependency, entitlement and victimhood prevail. Most arrive poorly educated, with few job skills, but with an expectation that they will be provided for. They proceed to live rough lives on the mean streets of these cities. Many drift to shoplifting and other crime. The inner city thieves are disproportionately from this demographic.

This problem is only made worse by gullible writers and politicians who make excuses for the thieves. Their excuse is that these people are disadvantaged, so they are less than fully responsible for their criminal conduct. Some sympathetic souls go even further, and suggest that these indigenous shoplifters are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs as “reparations” because the shop owners are on “stolen land”. They argue that these indigenous people are victims of a system that gives them no chance to succeed, or that they are suffering from the “intergenerational trauma” presumably caused by the fact that 1 in 6 indigenous children attended residential schools in the past.

The shoplifters readily adopt these excuses, and claim to be victims of “systemic racism”.

But, wait a minute! Isn’t the Premier of Manitoba, Wab Kinew, indigenous? Isn’t he a successful, law-abiding person? And wouldn’t most indigenous Canadians laugh at the idea that they had to steal to survive? How is it that Wab Kinew, and the many other successful indigenous Canadians manage their lives just fine while the shoplifters cannot?

The answer is that Wab succeeded the way all successful people do. He went to school, worked hard, and went where the jobs are. He was fortunate to have competent, caring parents who understood the importance of education and hard work. His parents also understood that assimilation (or, if you prefer, integration) was essential for their son to succeed. Wab’s father had a rough time in residential school, but used what he learned to raise a son who has become a provincial premier.

 The fact that Kinew is fully assimilated does not prevent him from celebrating his indigenous heritage. Recently, a video of him energetically performing a prairie chicken dance went viral. It showed indigenous youth that they too can be both successful Canadians – and proudly indigenous – at the same time.

It is clear from watching him dancing so vigorously that he would have been a formidable warrior in pre-contact indigenous hunting culture. Colonialism ended that possibility. But it is equally clear that he, and the other indigenous people who were willing to learn the new ways, received a lot in return from the settlers. He is now an articulate, literate, thoroughly modern man, thanks to “settler colonialism”. Colonialism has also given him an expected lifespan more than double that of yesterday’s hunter-gatherers. Colonialism gave at least as much as it took from him.

Kinew’s memoir, “The Reason You Walk” describes someone determined to live his life not as a victim, but as a confident indigenous Canadian.

He built his own life – making mistakes along the way – but learning from those mistakes, and is now the leader of a province – and lauded as a possible future prime minister. He offers no apologies to critics who suggest that an indigenous person who is successful is somehow “selling out” indigenous people. His famous reply to that old saw is “Aboriginal success is the best form of reconciliation”.

Don’t expect to find Wab Kinew stealing frozen hamburger from a Food Fare store anytime soon.

But here’s the lesson indigenous youth can learn from the example Wab Kinew, and other successful indigenous people have set: “If they can do it, so can you”. They should also tell the apologists who want to give them tired excuses – excusing theft as “reparations” for perceived past wrongs, or “intergenerational trauma” – that they, like Wab, refuse to live their lives as “victims”.

In short, the solution to the shoplifting problem is not to condone theft. It is not to treat criminals differently because they are indigenous. It is not to offer them excuses. The solution is to create more Wab Kinews.

And that’s up to Indigenous parents. No government can do that for them. For many families, like Wab’s, that will include the difficult decision to move from dead-end reserves.  But if they have the same commitment to their children’s education and upbringing that Wab’s parents had there is no reason that they can’t raise successful children in this country.

Long before he became Manitoba’s premier, Wab Kinew, regularly entertained listeners on CBC Radio. He was a refreshing, common sense voice, and always refused to play the victim. He never failed to remind young indigenous people that Canada worked just fine for him.

And, with a bit of grit and hard work, it can work for them too.

 

Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Where was Canada’s Governor General on D-Day?

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

There really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

On D-Day June 6 Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon should have taken her rightful place. At ceremonies in France. But she wasn’t there. Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed her aside. As usual.

The D-Day landings may seem like ancient history even as June 6, 1944 was a defining day for Canada. But it’s important to recall that over 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach, as part of the largest amphibious landing in history. More than 5,000 Canadian troops were killed and thousands more injured in the Battle of Normandy. While we celebrate the eventual defeat of Germany, we may also recall Winston Churchill’s saying we need to remember that there was a Germany before Hitler.

The military historian Basil Liddell Hart had a view of history that’s largely gone missing in the western democracies. Essential reading is his book, Why don’t we learn from history? He quoted the Roman historian Polybius: “There are two roads to the reformation of mankind—one through the misfortunes of their own, the other through the misfortunes of others; the former is the most unmistakable, the latter the less painful…we should always look out for the latter, for thereby we can, without hurt to ourselves, gain a clearer view of the best course to pursue… the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all education for practical life.”

Arguably, the conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza could have been averted or could have evolved less disastrously by heeding the lessons of history—and, specifically, from history of the two World Wars. Undoubtedly, the mismanaged exit from Kabul emboldened President Putin. Disaster in Ukraine since the invasion of Crimea represents failure to heed the ancient principle, also from Roman times, If you want peace, prepare for war. There was no deterrent to the invasion of Ukraine. And the western democracies have consistently delivered far too little materiel and far too late.

There’s abject disrespect at the highest levels for truth and tradition, and the values that made of Canada a great country. I came across a phrase in news  reports that made me shudder. The Governor General was relieved of her duties when it was she who should have hosted a state dinner for President Joe Biden in 2023. Prime Minister Trudeau had no business relieving her of her duties. He usurped her constitutional role.

The Governor General was also relieved of her duty to attend the D-Day ceremonies in France. Arguably, it was her job to unveil unveiled a statue commemorating Canada’s participation. In her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regina Rifles, Princess Anne performed that ceremony. Fair enough. But as a minimum, the Governor General should have been there too. Instead, of course, Trudeau traveled to France after shunting the Governor General off to perform a token ceremony in New Brunswick.

My point is, there really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

Canadians don’t normally need to know that the British North America Act vests in the Governor General an ultimate duty to override political abuse. But that’s why King Charles’s representative signs legislation into law as well as other proclamations. That function, and the power to withhold it, is the last resort for maintaining the free and democratic society that Canada purports to be.

History tells of ultimate leaders who failed that duty to their people. In 1921, under pressure of riots, Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III refused to declare a state of emergency and impose martial law. Instead he dissolved the parliament and asked Mussolini to take the power that evolved into his dictatorship. Similarly, in 1933 Germany’s ailing President Paul von Hindenburg signed into law the Enabling Act that empowered Hitler’s unbridled exercise of power.

D-Day reinforces this lesson from history, from two thousand years ago. The Roman political philosopher Cicero warned: “Though liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our constitution speaks of the people’s general welfare. Under that phrase all manner of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants …”

In sum, it’s important to learn history and to maintain traditions. That includes having Governors General who insist on taking the lead role as Canada’s functional head of state—and, most importantly, not having politicians usurping the vice-regal role.

Colin Alexander’s degrees include Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case shows we need to fix the broken system.  

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