Christopher Dummitt: The Canadian Historical Association’s fake ‘consensus’ on Canadian genocide

Christopher Dummitt, Special to National Post

Publishing date:Aug 13, 2021

Arwen~ Excerpt from article

“In late May, a First Nation in British Columbia announced that it had used ground-penetrating radar to discover a burial site, containing at least 215 bodies, near a former residential school. This was followed by other First Nations announcing similar discoveries. The announcements were seized upon by pundits as yet more evidence of Canada’s allegedly genocidal status, and some local politicians, encouraged by the CBC, acceded to demands that Canada Day festivities be cancelled. It was in this moment, as the #CancelCanadaDay hashtag took off on social media, that the leadership of the Canadian Historical Association made its public statement.

It would be one thing if these historians were rendering an academic judgment on the basis of a body of new evidence. But as noted above, that isn’t what happened. Historians have known for years that thousands of Indigenous children died in residential schools, including through physical abuse, malnutrition, disease, and neglect. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission itself included a project aimed at recording and analyzing the identities of the tragically numerous children who were categorized as missing or who were buried in unmarked graves.

In sensationalized 2021 media accounts, Canadians were told that what had been discovered were “mass graves” — a term that brings to mind mass slaughter on the scale of Nazi war atrocities. But as Indigenous elders themselves pointed out in recent months, this is fake news: the grave site that had sparked national outrage was, as the community knew, a former cemetery. And the reason it is currently unmarked seems to be that the graves had been memorialized with wooden crosses — a widespread practice at the time — which disappeared over the decades. Moreover, it wasn’t just school attendees who’d been buried in some sites, but also others (including pre-school-aged children, who never would have set foot in the schools) and others from the nearby area.

Mi’kmaq girls in sewing class at the Roman Catholic-run Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie.
Mi’kmaq girls in sewing class at the Roman Catholic-run Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie. PHOTO BY LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA

Much more investigation is required to determine the full story of these gravesites. But the CHA was less interested in getting the facts than in presenting itself as being on board with a misleading narrative circulating in the lay media. And in the process, the organization compounded the spread of misinformation by creating its own false narrative about a “consensus” in the profession that doesn’t actually exist.

The campaign to label Canada a genocide state isn’t an isolated phenomenon, but is playing out as part of a larger effort to destroy any publicly displayed symbol of national pride. This has included a concerted effort to rename organizations, and remove or destroy statues, on the logic that their mere existence “creates an unsafe environment” for historically marginalized groups. Many of the actors demanding this purge are activists. But an unsettling number are professional historians. This includes Adele Perry at the University of Manitoba, a former president of the Canadian Historical Association. A few months ago, Perry co-authored an article linking the defence of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, with those who “serve white supremacy and protect the colonial status quo.” One of Perry’s University of Manitoba colleagues, Sean Carleton, denounces ideological opponents as being practitioners of “residential-school denialism,” a term that seems intended to put them in the same moral category as holocaust deniers.”

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