Collaborating in Indigenous Privilege

By Hymie Rubenstein and James Pew

 

As should now be expected, anything written about Indigenous Canadians that could be considered even remotely disrespectful or hurtful by Aboriginal leaders and the usual political suspects would see its authors quickly attacked as racist deniers.

It should not be surprising then that there was outrage expressed, real or contrived, by the Quesnel, B.C., city council to the community circulation of an edited collection of articles jointly published by True North and Dorchester Books called Grave Error: How the Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools).

Full disclosure: both of us are proud contributors to Grave Error which has been selling like hotcakes despite not being stocked in bookstores or receiving any mainstream media reviews.

The issue of the book’s alleged contents and its distribution in the community by Pat Morton, wife of Quesnel Mayor Ron Paull, were addressed during the council’s Mar. 19 meeting, following a letter of complaint from the tiny Lhtako Dene Indian Band (191 members) expressing outrage over having to defend the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the T’Kemlups te Secwepem’c Indian Band, the Williams Lake Indian Band, and others.

No mention was made in the mainstream media stories covering this issue that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) findings have been roundly criticized as biased, skewed, and unverified in scores of articles since its 2015 Final Report was released. There was also no mention of a 2021 collection of essays titled From Truth Comes Reconciliation: Assessing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report detailing the many of TRC volumes’ errors, omissions, and exaggerations, also a central concern in the Grave Error essays. A second edition of From Truth Comes Reconciliation is on its way.

As for the T’Kemlups te Secwepem’c First Nation, better known as the Kamloops Indian Band, it was the site in B.C. where 215 children were claimed to have met their deaths in some sinister way at the hands of the nuns and priests who ran its Indian Residential School. The children were said to be buried secretly at night with the forced help of six-year-old children. If true, that would have been the most significant crime – by far – in Canadian history. If false, as numerous critiques have suggested, it amounts to among the largest hoaxes in Canadian history.

In turn, the Williams Lake Indian Band, also in B.C., is the community whose chief, Willie Sellars, has claimed Indigenous children were murdered in every conceivable way by priests, their bodies “thrown into rivers, streams and lakes.” Sellars has also alleged the existence of a decades-long conspiracy between the federal government, Catholic Church and RCMP to keep these murders hushed up.

As many of the essays in both books show, there is not a shred of verifiable evidence underlying these and similar claims about burials on other reserves, reason enough for those who wish to promote or enrich themselves off these false assertions to try to ban the two books while victimizing those promoting them.

One copy of Grave Error went to the parents of Councillor Tony Goulet, also president of the North Cariboo Métis Association and Chair of the local school board, who complained, “With my dad going to residential school, he brought up a lot of stuff; let me tell you it was contesting that they didn’t exist. Those things are real, and they did happen to Indigenous people who went through the school, and especially if you were just picked up and taken to the school and everything was taken away from you; so, very emotional, it was very hard for me to take.”

Goulet left unmentioned that none of the book’s writers or its two editors have ever questioned the existence of the Indian Residential Schools or the poor experiences of some of its students, especially those sent there from broken or orphaned homes, children who arrived already badly traumatized by their domestic experiences, traumas many carried with them to their graves.

He also failed to say that his mother, Connie Goulet, was the manager of the North Cariboo Metis Association in 2018 and that her LinkedIn page indicates she’s still the manager, so it is likely Pat Moran gave her a copy of Grave Error in her formal capacity as manager of the association.

Also unmentioned is that Goulet’s father could not have been “just picked up and taken to the school.” After 1940, most school attendees were children rescued from orphaned, dysfunctional, neglectful, or abusive homes. As for the rest, like other non-treaty Canadians, Métis people were excluded by the Indian Act from Indian Residential School support so his parents would have had to twist arms to get him admitted into an IRS. Moreover, all voluntary attendance at these schools for nearly their entire history required a signed application from parents or guardians.

Meanwhile, Goulet, the member of a politically active family with possible aspirations to replace first-term mayor Paull, offered no evidence that his Métis father suffered any abuse as a student in the unnamed boarding school he was alleged to have attended. 

He also claimed he had read the entire book and that his main concern was its community circulation and distribution. 

“It was very disturbing. I was just appalled. People are allowed to have their opinion and I’m not against people having their opinion, but we shouldn’t be detesting things that have been taking place for years with reconciliation and what we’re trying to do with Indigenous elders and Indigenous people, we’re doing an actual injustice by saying here is a book, here is something you should read and look at and form your own opinion. It’s very, very, very traumatizing. It’s very, very, very disrespectful, I think, to an Indigenous community,” Goulet stated.

How reading factual, logical, scholarly accounts presented impartially and dispassionately could be both traumatizing and disrespectful is unclear, as is Goulet’s ambiguous way of addressing the matter: in a single sentence, he claims he isn’t against “people having their opinion,” but then contends he is against people having the wrong opinion, a logical contradiction at best.

Moreover, diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation, at least in their healthiest forms, requires unfettered freedom of speech. Censorship of the type embraced by this “woke” city councillor is counterproductive because bad ideas are best confronted with good ideas: history has repeatedly shown that censorship only pushes such ideas underground where they mutate into even more dangerous forms.

Conversely, the few vocal critics of the council’s actions are aware of the need for open debate on contentious issues. This is what @DorchesterRev posted to X (formerly Twitter) in response to Goulet’s “double consciousness”

“‘We’re doing an actual injustice by saying here is a book, here is something you should read and look at and form your own opinion.  It’s very, very, very traumatizing. It’s very, very, very disrespectful, I think, to an Indigenous community.’ Not allowed to read a book and form your own opinion? That’s an interesting take.”

Always polite and professional, the minds at The Dorchester Review have understated the case by framing it as “interesting.” Shannon Lee Mannion, an independent researcher, journalist, and board member of the Indian Residential School Research Group, had a much hotter take:

“Quesnel, BC is at a Full Boil. 
“Here’s something that strikes me as ludicrous. There are roughly 10,000 in the town of Quesnel, 23,000 if lumped in with the surrounding area. 
“However, there are only 191 Lhtako Dene who are creating a countrywide scandal. The Quesnel City Council has soundly denounced, that’s the word used, Grave Error. They have all but called for the mayor to drag his wife from their house by her hair and to publicly flog her in the centre of town. 
“What is going on?”

 

Another IRS researcher and independent writer, retired lawyer Peter Best, sent the following email to the editor of a CBC story about the Quesnel brouhaha:

 

“I am a retired Sudbury lawyer. Way over here in Ontario, we are reading about the Mayor and Council of Quesnel buckling under the pressure to denounce and ban the truthful book, Grave Error. Shame. It is neither racist nor disrespectful to Indigenous people. It is a necessary re-balancing of the narrative about residential schools. It is a condemnation of the press for gullibly buying into the Kamloops mass graves story, where, three years later, there’s no proof of them. My review of Grave Error is linked to here. Lovers of free speech should urge Quesnel to read this book, and not to be intimidated from exercising their right to freedom of speech and thought.”

Other council members also criticized the distribution of the book. However, none appeared to be familiar with its contents or any of its possible errors, a logical fallacy called “appeal to ignorance.”

Quesnel’s population of 12,000 people is 15% Indigenous, and the issue of the book’s distribution was front and centre at the Mar. 19 council meeting in response to a letter from the 191-member Lhtako Dene Indian Band debunking the book’s contents and distribution:

“It has come to our attention that … the book entitled: Grave Error”… makes many harsh comments including: ‘truth has been turned into a casualty,’ implying that cultural genocide did not occur, and basically questioning the existence of Indian Residential Schools.

“The calling into question of what our Nation [sic] went through is a slap in our people’s collective faces and is very hurtful to them. The Nation has a significant number of members who suffered through attendance at a Residential School and today suffer through the long-term trauma of what they went through. The book adds to that hurt.”

“It just rips your stomach out,” the Band’s administrator Maynard Bara said on Mar. 20. “It's just absolute bigotry and hatred.”

Such inflammatory rhetoric serves to obscure the likelihood these traumas were carried from home to school. The book’s contents, in turn, reveal that although integration with Euro-Canadian culture was their aim and children were discouraged from speaking their Indigenous languages in the classroom (and in contemporary French immersion programmes which prohibit conversing in English), “cultural genocide,” a politically loaded but extra-legal synonym for total assimilation, was neither attempted nor achieved by the schools. Indeed, the contrary was the rule rather than the exception as school narratives clearly show. Moreover, most students attended for only a few years and nearly all went home during holidays including Christmas and summer vacations, thereby retaining much of what had not been already lost or transformed due to over 300 years of absorption of Western socio-cultural traditions, including technology, religion, and language.

Indifferent to or ignorant of post-contact Indigenous history, Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, the city council’s Indigenous relations liaison, was also very harsh in her comments, stating there “is a consensus among the nations that this is not okay, that their elders and communities are suffering because of this [book] being out in the community.”

“There is no excuse for this type of behaviour in our community, period, and I don’t care that you think it’s about your own opinion and having the right to voice it; it’s about how this showcases our community to the rest of B.C. and to the world,” she said.

Translation: emotion and public relations always trump truth-telling during these virulent cancel culture times, freedom of the press be damned. 

Mayor Paull also distanced himself from the book, an Amazon best seller with thousands of copies sold, and his wife’s local efforts to promote it.

Quesnel mayor Ron Paull answered ‘no’ to the question from Coun. Scott Elliott asked whether he agreed with what his wife was doing

“I haven’t even opened it; I have looked at the cover, but to be honest, I have no interest in looking at it,” he said.

How a duly elected public official in a democratic country could condemn the contents of a book he is unfamiliar with, in the process denouncing his wife for simply informing others of its existence, boggles the mind.

Apart from Tony Goulet, none of its other council critics appear to have glanced at it either, yet unanimously passed two motions, the first to reaffirm the city’s 2017 memorandum of understanding (MOU), which formalizes a collaborative relationship with the Lhtako Dene Indian Band, the second to visit the Band’s longhouse to hear from elders and residential school “survivors.”

The MOU restated, “That the Lhtako have occupied their traditional territory for millennia and continue to do so” and that “The City of Quesnel stands with Lhtako Dene and all Indigenous Nations denouncing denial of the cultural genocide and abuse experienced by Indigenous children and their families due to Residential Schools; and the City of Quesnel agrees with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

With due respect to the Lhtako, it is implausible that a hunting and gathering people in the interior of B.C. surrounded by traditional warlike enemies have occupied the same land for millennia. More important, there is no reason to believe that members on either side of the debate have read anything other than short news stories and opinion pieces about the six-volume TRC Report.

More troubling still, the reaffirmed MOU saw a new sentence added: “PLEASE NOTE: We have removed mention in Council’s resolution to the book that has been distributed in Quesnel, so as not to give it merit or attention.” (emphasis in the original)

Those brave enough to challenge the city council’s effort to shun or disparage the book, though far and few between, have not been absent.

A post on X from Canadian political scientist Eric Kaufmann captured this outrageous example of illiberal privilege and its adjacent act of morally vacuous political virtue signalling:

“Indigenous have cultural power over whites, so the small town council can’t question the veracity of ‘community’ anecdotes, instead choosing to genuflect and cancel a book in the name of ‘sensitivity.’ An object lesson in how woke works. Shelby Steele 101.”

Another X post by cancelled teacher Jim McMurtry – fired from his teaching position for correctly teaching kids that former Indian Residential School student deaths were primarily due to disease and accidents – read, “Most people are self-satisfied with lies about the past, but not all… Irene Hoff, who went to the Chapleau IRS, said: ‘I will not be taking any money from the government. I was not abused, my family was not, and nobody I know was abused in the schools’.” – The Beautiful Passages in the IRS Concerto | IRSRG

The editors of Grave error, Tom Flanagan and C. P. Champion, responded to the censorship efforts of the Quesnel city councillors in a measured March 25 press release:

In order to understand history, citizens need access to different points of view, and the evidence that underpins them. The councillors for the City of Quesnel are fearful and may not realize they are suppressing the disputational process, preventing the truth from coming out.

 “Elected officials, news reporters and influencers should have the integrity to read Grave Error for themselves, and make up their own minds. Canadians at large have a right to question false narratives.”

The CBC and other media have accepted the claim Grave Error is a “hurtful” book. There are two rebuttals to this assertion. The first is just some grown up observation in our age of infantilization: it is clear many people today cannot accept the harsh and cold reality that truth does not care about hurt feelings. Truth is like an Android App that no one programmed to understand or consider feelings. It was programmed that way deliberately because it was understood – by those nerdy I.T. types – that feelings and emotions do not serve the truth; in fact, they are far more likely to prevent it.

A second thought about Grave Error and all the hurt feelings it is said to be generating is just as easy to explain.

Contemporary “social justice” based on a perverted interpretation of diversity, equity, and inclusion says Western beliefs, values, and practices – indeed, traditional Western civilization rooted in Enlightenment culture – are hostile forces fostering racism, inequality, oppression, and injustice. Conversely, this paradigm says the feelings of oppressor British descendants are irrelevant. If true, then why should the non-Indigenous heirs of the Enlightenment care about the feelings of anyone other than themselves? Equally important, why can’t we agree that feelings and truth are fire and ice, water and oil, Trump and Biden, and Komodo dragons and kittens? They simply don’t belong together.

The moral of this story is Canadians need to do some heavy lifting for a change by starting some hard conversations about “Indigenous privilege” grounded in “Indigenous exceptionalism.” The debacle in Quesnel has made this imperative. On display was an absurd act of Orwellian censorship and infantile genuflection, a putrid brew of likely feigned respect for manufactured Indigenous “knowings” by progressive-minded non-Indigenous Canadians consumed by undeserved racial guilt.

It should be clear why an obsession with Indigenous feelings must stop because this preoccupation will ensure there will never be any truth-telling about the important daily problems faced by Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Saying this may sound cold and harsh but does not affect its veracity.

Even if false, the ongoing obsession with hurt feelings in the name of so-called reconciliation will never prevent condemning books no one has read or the acceptance of assertions known to be false.

 

Order your copy of Grave Error now, to help us fight false history and the publicly-subsidized charlatans who propound it. 

 

Hymie Rubenstein is editor of REAL Indigenous Report and a retired professor of anthropology, the University of Manitoba.

James Pew is an independent writer and researcher, and the editor of Woke Watch Canada which covers the culture wars from a variety of angles, with an emphasis on the effects of esoteric academic inventions (i.e., Postmodernism and Critical Theory) on Canadian culture, education, and public policy.


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  • Don Gaughan en

    A truthful fact based rational response to a an irrational false politicised political narrative accusation and claim that aims to inflict a massive marxist wealth / power/ entire country to the fraudulent claimants.
    The systemic suppression of dissent and refuting truth are the human rights violating acts of totalitarian tyrannies, inflicted today by marxist tyrannies like China and North Korea….and the marxist left liberal woke cult in the west.
    The democratic majority of citizens are not buying the lefts/race activists constant propaganda ,fabricated dogmas and disasterous policies , and opposition to them is on the rise.
    There is hope that the people will liberate their nations from the marxist left liberal woke cult tyranny take back their woke occupied public institutions to open democratic accountability and control,where it belongs.
    I dont underestimate the timr effort and difficulty this will be.We have prevailed over powerful entrenched tyrannies before, and over this one.

  • Ron Schultz en

    I purchased the book and I believe that it should be required reading in our high schools and any educational facilities offering courses in journalism. Maybe, Psychology courses as well, as it portrays our willingness to accept almost anything without evidence.


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