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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The tale of two teachers

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Jim McMurtry

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

At L.A. Matheson, a high school in Surrey, B.C., a poster in Annie Ohana’s classroom suggests society is too moralistic about sex work, the quote coming from an avowed Satanist. National Post writer Jamie Sarkonak described her classroom in this way: “The walls are covered with Social Justice posters. Some of them sloganeer about ‘decolonization,’ others ‘inflame racial politics.’” Ohana drapes herself in a Pride flag and speaks openly of her pansexuality as well as her subscription to wokeism, identity politics, Social Justice, and DEI.

In March Ohana appeared on CTV after being roundly criticized on X by an Ottawa teacher, Chanel Pfahl, the latter chased out of the profession a few years ago for questioning Critical Race Theory. Ohana said that Pfahl “seems to be making a lot of assumptions that were simply based on misinformation, lies, and in fact, puts myself and other teachers and students and my community in danger.” She also argued she was teaching about “critical thinking” and creating “empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves.” A Canadian flag hangs forlornly in her classroom, atop it is scrawled, “No pride in genocide.”

So far, she has faced no direct consequences for her political position or trying to indoctrinate her students. Indeed, she has won three teaching awards.

I, on the other hand, was walked out of my classroom and career for suggesting the only thing buried in Kamloops was the truth. In the eyes of my employer, I had put students and the community in danger by saying students who died while enrolled at a residential school did so from disease and not murder.

Northrop Frye wrote in The Great Code that the aim is “to see what the subject means, not to accept or reject it.” There is nothing wrong with the teaching of either me or Ohana as long as we are not steering students toward belief. In a 100-page investigation report on my teaching, an assistant superintendent of the Abbotsford School District wrote:

It in my view cannot be overemphasized that Mr. McMurtry having no knowledge of his students and more particularly whether any of these students had Indigenous descent in making his comments that provoked a strong student response and which was contrary to the school’s message of condolences and reconciliation. Regardless of his intent he left students with the impression some or all the deaths could be contributed to ‘natural causes’ and that the deaths could not be called murder or cultural genocide.

My fault was that I didn’t promote a “message of condolences and reconciliation.” Not only was this message never communicated to teachers, the message runs counter to the educational aim of seeing what a subject means. The message is also that the deaths of at least some Indian residential school children were attributable to murder, for which there is still no evidence.

Senator Lynn Beyak was the first prominent Canadian to wade into the increasingly turbulent waters of Indian residential schools. Labelled a racist and facing the prospect of ejection from the Senate, she retired in 2021 from her senate position but not from her convictions.

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

George Orwell wrote in 1945 in an introduction to Animal Farm, “At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it.” Queen’s law professor Bruce Pardy wrote last year: “A new standard of practice is emerging for Canadian professionals: be woke, be quiet, or be accused of professional misconduct.”

Annie Ohana is a better approximation of that mythically average teacher than I. Most teachers appear woke or know enough to be quiet and go along, standing for land acknowledgments, using individualized pronouns with students, speaking of gender identity and sexual orientation, distinguishing students based on race, reading Social Justice books over literary classics, and accepting revisionist history. They go to school wearing the right colour for the occasion: rainbow, pink, orange, red, or black. At staff meetings they are woke and quiet.

I am an avatar of Lynn Beyak, standing outside the orthodoxy and condemned by “all right-thinking people.” Our issue is also the same. Indian residential schools were not the genocidal project that federal members of parliament voted as a genocide on October 27, 2022.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by two Indigenous men and a woman married to an Indigenous man, travelled for six years across Canada, and heard from 6000 former students. The Commission’s bias was evident in its final report:

Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next. In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.

What the final report does not mention is:

o   the educational value of the schools;

o   the alternative was no education at all in remote areas where a day school was not feasible;

o   that both Indigenous chiefs and parents saw them as a treaty right and petitioned to keep them open into the sixties;

o   that parents had to apply to send their children to residential schools;

o   that the mandatory attendance which began in 1920 was to go to school (one-third going to day school, one-third to residential school, and one-third never going to any school);

o   that the schools took in orphans and served as a refuge for children and in some cases adults who were abused on the reserve or without the necessities of life; and

o  that many former students testified their time there was the happiest in their lives.

My natural allegiance is to fellow teachers, and I don’t doubt that Annie Ohana and others within the Critical Social Justice educational movement teach their students about critical thinking and create empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves. However, such critical thinking should also be directed against the orthodoxy these teachers are imposing on captive groups of students. As well, if their students are indeed empowered citizens, they should come to their own conclusions, no matter the ideological perspective of their teacher.

 Jim McMurtry, PhD, was formerly a principal of Neuchâtel Junior College in Switzerland and a college lecturer, but mostly he was a teacher. He lives in Surrey, B.C.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

They spent $8,000,000 without putting one shovel in the ground

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Giesbrecht

That’s how much money the Kamloops Band spent on…..exactly what we have no idea. If you remember, that indigenous band claimed that the people running the local residential school had, for unexplained reasons, secretly buried 215 of the students under their care. They had no evidence that would have stood up in any court in the western world to back up that highly unlikely claim. But the federal government immediately gave them $8,000,000 to……well, that’s the mystery. What did they spend that money on? They have not put one shovel in the ground, but apparently they have somehow spent the $8,000,000 of taxpayers’ hard earned money. It was claimed that the money would be used to uncover the “heartbreaking truth”. But the only heartbreaking truth seems to be the complete waste of tax dollars.But it gets worse. A whole lot worse.

Because the Trudeau government- in addition to lowering the flag for six months, and performing teddy bear pantomimes in community ceremonies – then went on to promise not just $8,000,000, but $320,000,000 – to any other indigenous community that wanted to make similar claims.

It should come as no surprise to any sentient being that dozens of poor indigenous communities immediately took the bait and claimed the prize.

So, the result is that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent somehow. But with no graves found. In fact, none have even put a spade in the ground.

Well, that’s not completely correct. The Pine Creek community in Manitoba was absolutely convinced that the stories about indigenous children dying under sinister circumstances, and being secretly buried under the local church, must be true. After all, they had all heard those stories.

The stories weren’t true. Excavations went ahead, and what was found? Stones.

The stories about priest murders and secret burials are just that. Stories. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars that should be spent on useful endeavours – like providing better health care for indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians – are being wasted. Rural paramedic services are being constantly cut back, for example. How many rural residents- indigenous as well as non-indigenous- will die from heart attacks because the paramedics were simply too far away from them to get them to the hospital in time to save their lives.There’s no money to improve rural medical services because millions are being wasted searching for phantom “missing children” and “unmarked graves”?

Canadians are beginning to wake up to the fact that they have been had. Somebody is getting rich on all of this government largesse. But it’s not poor indigenous Canadians. They remain stuck on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder. And medical and other essential services go wanting, because of this complete waste.

So, are there people in “unmarked graves”?

Absolutely. Billions of them in fact. This planet is basically one huge graveyard. The number of marked graves, with headstones naming the person interred, is a tiny fraction of the billions of people who have died on this planet.

Are the remains of some of the children who died from disease while attending residential school in unmarked graves? Absolutely. For that matter, so are the remains of many of the children who attended day schools, or no school at all in unmarked graves. There is nothing sinister about this fact of life. It simply means that the families of those children did not keep up the graves and cemeteries where the children were interred. (The vast majority of children who died while enrolled in residential schools are buried on their home reserves). This is not a criticism of those families. In fact, some of those families might have died out, and cemetery upkeep became impossible. Others just had different priorities.

So, what we have is just a sad fact of life. Many children died of diseases a hundred plus years ago who would not have died today. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. And indigenous children died in much greater numbers, for many different reasons. Tuberculosis, in particular, was a major killer of indigenous people.

In fact, tuberculosis is still 290 times higher in the indigenous community than in the mainstream community.

But the fact that death from disease was so much higher in the indigenous community than in the non-indigenous community has nothing to do with residential schools. It has nothing to do with the people running the schools, many of whom devoted their lives to working with indigenous people.

So, we come around to the question – why is $320,000,000 being spent to find the long lost burial places of children, simply because their families decided – for reasons of their own – to not keep up their gravesites? Because it is not true that there are thousands of “missing children” as alleged. Rather, as Professor Tom Flanagan puts it, in “Grave Error”, there are thousands of “forgotten children”. And as the special interlocutor, Kimberley Murray puts it, “These children are not missing, they are buried in local cemeteries”.

Perhaps that’s the reason that Murray’s upcoming National Gathering on Unmarked Burials has been postponed. Because there is nothing to say. Her six figure salary, and those of all of her staff and associates – to say nothing of the $320,000,000 that has been spent – somehow – on searching for phantom graves and phantom “missing children” – could have been better spent on the real needs of living children.

We are approaching the three year anniversary of the Kamloops claim that 215 children from the local residential school had been somehow killed and secretly buried in the apple orchard on the school grounds. There was no good reason to believe that highly improbable claim in the first place. It was only the foolish and emotional reaction of the Trudeau government, and the incompetence of the media that persuaded Canadians that they should take that nonsensical claim seriously in the first place.

It is time to get back to sanity. Treat those who claim – with no real evidence – that priests murdered and secretly buried children – exactly the same way that we treat those who claim that the Martians have landed, or that aliens have abducted their mothers.

Be polite. But don’t finance their delusions.

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

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Great Canadian Hoax exposed

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

Grave Error: How The Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools) edited by C.P. Champion and Tom Flanagan, Truth North and Dorchester Review, 343pp, $21.99) is a companion volume to Frontier’s From Truth Comes Reconciliation, which was published in 2021 (second edition is forthcoming). The two reviews published here are by Colin Alexander and Peter Best. The book demonstrates that there is no forensic evidence of Indian Residential School children that have been murdered and buried in residential school yards. There are a number of reasons for not believing the claim that children were murdered in these schools. Canadians are anxious to know the truth about the schools, and this book along with Frontier’s book go a long way to dispel the myths that have developed about the murder of residential school children. The book has been a top seller on Amazon since it was published in early January 2024.

This scholarly book of essays demolishes the narrative that any children went missing from Indian residential schools (IRS), let alone thousands, or that there are mass graves. Grave Error, in fact, debunks what essayist Jonathan Kay calls “a media-fuelled social panic over unmarked graves.” Mainstream media around the world—not just in Canada—ran with this press release issued on May 27, 2021:

This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar [GPR] specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings became known – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School [KRS]. …

To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” stated Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir. “Some were as young as three years old. …

Mainstream news media and politicians took the press release to heart, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lowering flags on federal buildings to half-mast for six long months. So debauched have the Enlightenment’s principles of inquiry become, along with those of responsible journalism, that it took outsiders to question the truth of this release.

Yes, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) found disturbed ground in the orchard near the school. That is because the land had buried drainage tiles from a septic system that had been installed in 1924. In any case, except for orphans and those whose upbringing was beyond their parents’ capacity, the IRS required a minimum age of six for admission.

No children were murdered and buried surreptitiously at night. Schools were paid on a headcount of children, so there was not a single name unaccounted for. There is a death certificate for every death, with burials either in the nearby cemetery or returned to their reserves. TB and other communicable diseases rampant everywhere caused most IRS deaths a century ago. Since the introduction of antibiotics, the death toll has been much lower. Many graves in recognized cemeteries are unmarked because the customarily used wooden crosses deteriorated over time. Despite that, in December 2021, Canadian Press called unmarked graves the story of the year!

Len Marchand’s autobiography, Breaking the Trail, provides an antidote for the horror stories at KRS. A former attendee during the time of the alleged murders and burials, he became Canada’s first Indigenous cabinet minister. The worst he says of his time there was that meals included mushy potatoes.

Essayist Ian Gentles says the juggernaut of misinformation began with the CBC program The Journal on October 30, 1990. Interviewed by Barbara Frum, Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, said he had been physically and sexually abused at his school. This led to a tsunami of former IRS attendees asserting similar allegations. Unfortunately, Ms. Frum did not ask who perpetrated the abuse, whether staff or fellow students. Or why he did not make a complaint to the police. I emailed Mr. Fontaine asking those questions but without receiving an answer.

Some essayists accept the proposition that there were real atrocities. I am not sure they were widespread. There were only a few successful prosecutions reported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There are probably some abuses at boarding schools. Was it really an atrocity to cut an IRS attendee’s hair on arrival or to exchange a uniform for an orange shirt? Essayist and former staff member at Stringer Hall in Inuvik, Rodney Clifton, has described children on their return after the summer break with their families. They were often in poor physical condition, and some were still wearing the clothing, unwashed in the meantime, that they left the school with.

Essayist Tom Flanagan scores a bull’s-eye when quoting John Ioannidis, medical researcher at Stanford University: “The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.” With money almost unlimited for Indigenous issues, a multi-billion-dollar industry has grown out of pleading for money and telling Indigenous youth to feel sorry for themselves. By extension, the industry has prospered from laying guilt on schoolchildren and taxpayers. As shown in Lonely Death of an Ojibwa Boy by Robert MacBain, that includes what I construe to be a fraud, the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack charity.

I also disagree with essayists saying the Indigenous were dealt a bad hand, let alone that they need new treaties. What about the previously downtrodden Asian Canadians who have surpassed their white counterparts in incomes? Yes, Canada welcomed Indians into the armed forces for the Boer Wars and the two World Wars, only to treat them like dirt when the wars ended. But today there has been a role-reversal. Now Indigenous leaders can say whatever they want, and no one calls them out on saying outrageous things.

To me, the failure of Canada’s Indigenous policy derives from the excesses of the welfare state which, since the demise of the fur trade, destroyed self-reliance and work ethic—Indigenous cultures were destroyed, if you will. Now Canadians kowtow to demands for renewed tribalism and self-determination resembling South Africa’s apartheid. That would give leaders prestige and money for doing little. For followers, it connotes marginalization and second-class citizenship. No one is considering the needs of next generations living in violence-wracked settlements having no economic reason to exist, and in urban slums. It eludes notice that those who are educated and skilled and engaged in or preparing for rewarding employment seldom become addicts or commit suicide, and they seldom go to jail.

The billions paid out for the IRS and mass graves hoaxes are not delivering acceptable housing or any other help that works. I know an unemployed and all but unemployable Inuk who got a cheque for $95,000 in April 2023. By July he had blown it all and was again scrounging for cigarettes. Many billions add to GDP and salve a nation’s conscience. But enriching prostitutes and drug dealers does not address real needs.

That said, there are templates, notably in Asia, for raising Third World peoples into the First World in a single generation. I recommend Grave Error as a starting point for radically different thinking about what needs to be done to help Indigenous Canadians succeed in our country.

Colin Alexander was publisher of the Yellowknife News of the North for many years, and the advisor on education for Ontario’s Royal Commission on the Northern Environment. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case and others show we need to fix a broken legal system.

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