Canadians struggling from a sense of shame, misinformation, Murray Sinclair says

Former chair of Truth and Reconciliation addressed discovery of 215 children buried at residential school

Canadians are suffering from a sense of shame and from misinformation, following the discovery of 215 children’s bodies buried near a former residential school in B.C., says former Truth and Reconciliation chairperson Murray Sinclair, seen in this 2015 file photo. (File photo)

By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

Former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Murray Sinclair provided the keynote address at a virtual business conference last that concluded last Friday.

Sinclair spoke at the 2021 Indigenous Partnership Success Showcase, organized by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

During a question-and-answer session following his comments on business relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, Sinclair was asked for his thoughts on the recent discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“It was information that was not unknown,” Sinclair said. “It was information that lacked specificity.”

Sinclair said it was a well-known fact that children had died in residential schools across Canada, undisclosed and unidentified, and that there were missing burial sites. Sinclair said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action 71 to 84 discuss missing children and those burial sites specifically.

Sinclair said there would not be a resolution to the past and an opportunity to move forward between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, churches and institutions of government unless more facts on missing children became known. These facts must include the number of Indigenous children who died at residential schools and what happened to their bodies.

“There is this growing desire to do something about it,” he said. “That something needs to be done about this. People need to be held to account. Children need to be taken proper care of. The burial sites need to be properly protected. The children themselves need to be identified.”

Many parents and family members might have to come to terms with a very hard reality; that their children died instead of believing they didn’t come home because they “ran away and decided not to come back to the community and that some day they will come back.”

Sinclair said many in non-Indigenous communities across the country are also struggling now.

“Their struggle is about the sense of shame, the sense of awareness that there has been misinformation, a lack of information and perhaps even a cover-up of all of this,” he said. “We know for example that the documents necessary to keep and make people aware of what occurred to each child who died in the schools are missing in many cases. There are children out there whose bodies, even when located, will be unknown. We won’t know who they are.”

Sinclair said what is known is the fact most of the deaths of Indigenous children occurred in Catholic schools or institutions run by Catholic entities.

“The Catholic Church has so far refused to allow unimpeded access to archives,” he said. “They have the most complete sets of records for the operation of their schools in Canada, better than the government of Canada.”

But he says only a small amount of the information has been shared.

“We have been told that, for some schools, records have been destroyed, accidentally or intentionally pursuant to document destruction policies,” Sinclair said. “The government of Canada has destroyed records. The Catholic Church has lost records, they say.

“The interesting thing is that in some of the entities where we know that children died and were buried in nearby cemeteries, the Catholic school in Canada did not maintain records over the deaths of Indigenous children even though they continued to maintain records over the deaths of non-Indigenous people in those schools, the staff for example.”

Sinclair said the Kamloops discovery is in all likelihood just the tip of the iceberg.

“We need to prepare ourselves for the fact that there are other schools that have equally large numbers too,” he said.

Sinclair also lambasted the public education system in Canada which for many generations taught “a white supremacist history,” one in which everything white people did was good while those who fought Europeans expanding their territorial reach was negative.

“And that message was taught so long, so hard and so well that it has resulted in a belief on the part of non-Indigenous students who have gone to public schools believing in this superiority of their own existence, superiority of their people, superiority of their ancestors versus the inferiority of Indigenous people in this country,” Sinclair said.

The goal of the two-day IPSS event was to provide guidance about how Indigenous communities can work together towards shared success with their non-Indigenous business partners.

Sinclair said long-term relationships are keys to achieving these goals.

“It is about having a basic trust level that has to be reached and it has to be attained and maintained,” he said. “And how do you get to that trust level? How do you begin to feel you can trust them and how do they feel they can trust you? So, showing that you are trustworthy is an important part of what is going to contribute to this success of your partnership.”

Share This Story

(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Source on

    Sure there is a lot of disreputable things Canada, like other countries, have done in the past however this all pales to the centuries of crimes against humanity the Catholic Church has lead. The killing, enslavement and torture of millions over the centuries from well before the Crusades, witch hunting, heresy, to more recent history, Spanish children sold for profit and the “schools”, ignoring or endorsing the Nazis. And one of the greatest scams ever perpetrated. Give us money, you are forgiven. All this makes the greatest of con artists look like amateurs. And yet the Catholic Church is infallible. How can anyone seriously attend the house that supports this den of thieves and not reflect. Many of us have stories of church sanctioned abuses but no matter, this concept that godliness can outweigh any amount of historical crime, will once again prevail. You want to tear down symbols of greed, murder and mistreatment. The Catholic HQ has their own country which should be levelled. Perhaps, even as a Catholic, I have studied too much history.

    • Posted by Olsen Olsen on

      Dealing in “this is worse than that” serves no real point except to deflect attention; and even if we could somehow measure bad actions on some scale suffering and death are still suffering and death. That said, internalizing guilt and shame to the people of our generation also seems like a pointless, arguably counter-productive endevour as well. We can address these issues effectively without flaggelating ourselves psychologically or pretending we need to personally “own it” as some of my more affected friends might argue. Still, Canada, and all our imaginings about what that is, does need to own it. Let’s not pretend these horrors did not take place, and I think we are not at a place where that is no longer possible. I think we should also recognize that this is not the same nation today as it was then (unless you are our MP, of course) … yet, we can see there are still areas that need work.

  2. Posted by “White supremacist history”? on

    It’s still happening today, and it will happen tomorrow. It is not history. It is a reality. Look around. Natives die and will continue to die under the hands of white people and little to nothing will ever be done about it. An Albertan native Child was repeatedly hit by a white woman while under her foster care. The child died. The judge stated that the quality of life that a native child has doesn’t call for severe punishment. I wish I was joking. Look it up!

    • Posted by Lazy Larry on

      “Look it up” …. such an indolent comment, worse than that obnoxious celebration of hubris and laziness “go educate yourself”.

      Seriously though, you expect people to rush out and google, what exactly?

    • Posted by We need each other on

      Things that were done by past governments and peoples should be acknowledge and never be repeated, then remember as history . But to claim white supremacy in Canada for every problem that a victim has, will only divide and create racism in its self. Canada is a very much multiracial country and has changed very much so in the last 152 years. Every corner of Canada has felt the pain of giving up its own self but that is what Canada is, It is the coming together of many people for the betterment of all. Sure we have problems and racism being one of them but racism is multiracial as well . Most, if not all want to live in peace, but there is a cost, giving up a part of ones culture and accepting part of another’s culture maybe the price we must be willing to pay. As Canadians we must focus on the future and not expect others to make sacrifices when we will not. Maybe a part of us coming together is accepting our past, good and the bad and moving forward together. I hope we can over come all the pain we as Canadian’s have had to endure and hope this can make us stronger as one people. I really want to believe that this new term for us here in Canada ” White Supremacy” is used by people try to divide us and we do not take the bait. More will be accomplished together than apart. We need each other.

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      The idea that white supremacy and racism permeate all corners of our society and are at crisis levels has become considered so obvious and self-evident to some that to even question the idea is taken as a sign of racism itself. But that is the point, few things terrify modern liberals more than being called a racist. So, as Robin DiAngelo argues in ‘White Fragility’ to resist the idea that you are a racist is to demonstrate your fragility in the face of an unfalsifiable fact. It’s hard to believe this kind of nonsense has gained so much traction, but then so did the Celestine Prophecy at one time.

      The real question remains, is racism really worse than it has ever been, is it really at pandemic levels? I don’t think this idea stands up. If we could travel back in time, we would see manifestations of racism considered wholly normal by our ancestors, which today would be non-existent and totally unacceptable to nearly all of us. Our trajectory is firmly in the direction of progress here.

  3. Posted by Bangers and Mash on

    This is such a tragic thing to have happened, but I do not have a feeling of shame because
    I know that I have done nothing wrong.
    Any reconciliation money should be paid by the R. C. CHURCH, not the Canadian people.
    All the peoples in Canada ( AFRO, AISO, EURO, FIRST NATION, INUIT ) , some of us are
    guilty of racism, nepotism and other stuff.
    Each province should have an office where this can be reported honestly.

Comments are closed.