The News Rundown
- BC has not had a good reputation around the world in the last few weeks. While the forestry issues rage on and have garnered a large international media attention, a newly discovered tragedy has shocked the entire country, and it has been a hard story to follow, given the raw emotions that it invokes. It's also been a much developing story that's changed every day with new information released so I will do my best in covering it.
- Indigenous leaders across B.C. are voicing their grief, sadness and support after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir announced the finding of the buried remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School which were confirmed with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist on May 22nd.
- Between 1831 and 1996, Canada’s residential school system separated nearly 150,000 children from their homes by force. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide.”
- Kamloops, which takes its name from the Tk’emlúps First Nation, is a city of about 100,000 people in the interior of BC. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is a First Nations government within the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, which represents ten of the seventeen Secwepemc band governments, all in the southern Central Interior region, spanning the Thompson and Shuswap districts. It is one of the largest of the 17 groups into which the Shuswap nation was divided when the Colony of British Columbia established an Indian reserve system in the 1860s.
- The Kamloops Indian Residential School was established on the Nation's territory in 1890, and was run by the Catholic Church until 1969 as part of the Canadian Indian residential school system, before being taken over by the federal government and used as a day school. At one point, the school was the largest in the residential school system, with up to 500 students attending at any given time. The school closed in 1978, but the building remains near a bend in the South Thompson River on Kamloops Indian Reserve No. 1.
- The school in Kamloops was at one point the largest in Canada and one of the three schools that first nations children from the Nicola Valley would attend. The other two were located in Lytton and Mission.
- Chief Casimir, who said the discovery is an unthinkable loss, said “We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths. Some were as young as three years old. We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.”
- Casimir said the deaths were spoken about but never documented. The work was undertaken by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Language and Culture Department with ceremonial Knowledge Keepers who ensured that the work was conducted respectfully in light of the serious nature of the investigation with cultural protocols being upheld.
- The Tk’emlúps First Nation is going to work with the coroner to identify the remains if possible, reach out to the home communities who had children who attended the residential school, protect the areas of the remains, and work with the Royal BC Museum archives and others to seek out any existing records of these deaths.
- The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) also issued a statement, noting they mourn with the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc, and with all of the families of the children lost to the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, said “There are no words to express the deep mourning that we feel as First Nations people, and as survivors, when we hear an announcement like this. These were children – all belonging to a family and community, and a Nation – who were forcibly stolen from their homes under the authority of the Canadian government, and never returned. We call upon Canada, and all of those who call yourselves Canadians, to witness and recognize the truth of our collective history. This is the reality of the genocide that was, and is, inflicted upon us as Indigenous peoples by the colonial state. Today we honour the lives of those children, and hold prayers that they, and their families, may finally be at peace.”
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Catholics across the country to demand action from the Catholic Church in response. Church officials have so far resisted making public the records related to the school. That resistance is said to be stalling efforts to identify children who may be buried there.
- "As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed by the decision that the Catholic Church has taken now and over the past many years," the prime minister said during a news conference today. Trudeau said he's asked Pope Francis to commit to a number of restitution measures, including a formal apology and the publication of records associated with Canada's residential school system. The Church has not yet delivered on any of those requests.
- The federal government has restricted the air space over a former residential school in Kamloops where the bodies of 215 children were found last week. The decision was made “out of respect for the privacy of the survivors and families,” Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced in a Friday.
- Trudeau said "We're still seeing resistance from the Church. I think it's going to be a really important moment for all of us, particularly Catholics across the country, to reach out in our local parishes, to reach out to bishops, cardinals, and make it clear we expect the Church to step up and take responsibility for its role in this."
- A formal apology from the Pope is among the recommendations coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report.
- But the federal government has itself been accused of resisting efforts to publish records related to the residential school system and the atrocities that took place within the schools.
- As recently as 2020, Ottawa won an Ontario Superior Court case that blocked the creation of statistical reports on residential school abuse claims and the direct transfer of other records to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
- The Supreme Court of Canada also ruled in 2017 that thousands of records documenting abuse at residential schools should be destroyed.
- Canada remains in possession of records related to residential schools, though the federal government has signed on to legal agreements that prevent some of the records from being released without the Church's consent.
- Canada’s bishops are expressing their “deepest sorrow” and pledge to “continue walking side by side” with Indigenous people in the wake of the discovery. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement: “The news of the recent discovery is shocking. It rekindles trauma in numerous communities across this land. Honouring the dignity of the lost little ones remains that the truth be brought to light.”
- Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg said “As we see ever more clearly the pain and suffering of the past, the Bishops of Canada pledge to continue walking side by side with Indigenous peoples in the present, seeking greater healing and reconciliation for the future.”
- More than a dozen lawyers from across Canada have formally requested the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate the Canadian government and the Vatican for crimes against humanity following preliminary reports that the remains of an estimated 215 children were discovered at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
- Fifteen lawyers, headed by Calgary counsel, have made the request to the ICC's chief prosecutor Karim Khan.
- If it happens, the investigation could lead to the prosecution of "employees, agents and actors" of the Catholic Church and Government of Canada who were involved in either the creation and/or coverup of the burial grounds, said Calgary lawyer Brendan Miller.
- Chief Harvey McLeod of the Upper Nicola Band attended the Kamloops residential school for two years, 1966-68, as did both his parents, and his eight siblings.
- McLeod said: “I didn’t realize how strong I was. I was strong because I came home. I didn’t know that till this afternoon. So much hurt and pain came out in a matter of seconds. Just felt for our families that all went there. We have a large number of people from this community (Upper Nicola) that went to school there. We all have different experiences but a lot of hurt and pain and shame and anger leaving there.”
- Memorials have been occurring around the province, and news around this painful and horrible tragedy is still ongoing. We at Western Context hope that the survivors of this unthinkable part of our Canadian history will find strength and closure, and that our First Nations communities can begin to heal.
- After the unmarked graves of 215 Kamloops residential school children were found the discussion has turned to what can be done right those wrongs today.
- There have been calls in Alberta to rename such places as the Grandin LRT station and cover up a mural of Bishop Vital Grandin after the news out of Kamloops.
- Grandin was a catholic Bishop and advocate of the residential school system.
- Bishop Grandin school could also be renamed in Calgary.
- The Calgary Board of Education has already also announced that it will be renaming Langevin School to Riverside School. Langevin was a member of the Great Coalition that led to Confederation of Canada and was also a supporter of the residential schools.
- This spurred a reaction based on history and the realization that we must learn from the past to fix problems today by Premier Jason Kenney.
- In particular the Premier said, “It is an imperfect country, but it is still a great country, just as John Macdonald was an imperfect man but was still a great leader. If we want to get into cancelling every figure in our history who took positions on issues at the time that we now judge harshly and rightly in historical retrospective — but if that’s the new standard, then I think almost the entire founding leadership of our country gets cancelled.”
- He went on saying that historical injustices do need to be addressed but, "If the new standard is to cancel any figure in our history associated with what we now rightly regard as historic injustices, essentially that is the vast majority of our history. Instead we need to learn from it."
- He then pointed out that this destructive spirit is not within the spirit of reconciliation since the spirit of reconciliation is about learning about wrongs of the past, remedying them, and knowing our history and moving forward.
- Kenney also pointed out that if this is the direction we’re going we also need to look at other historical figures like eugenics advocates in the “Famous Five” and Tommy Douglas, Wilfred Laurier who increased the Chinese head tax to stop immigrants from coming to Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King who denied Jews from entering Canada during the Holocaust, and Pierre Trudeau who invoked martial law during the FLQ crisis.
- Pierre Trudeau and his Indian Affairs Minister, Jean Chretien in 1969 authored the Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy which proposed to “assimilate First Nations as an ethnic group equal to other Canadians”
- While we can talk about how flawed the Indian Act is and how it should be replaced, any document advocating assimilation would be shunned today and its authors cancelled.
- The last residential school closed in 1996 which means Prime Ministers Chretien, Mulroney, and Trudeau Sr. all oversaw a tremendous injustice in Canada.
- Should we cancel those leaders and remove their names from anything of significance for not acting quick enough?
- The point is that if we are to full on embrace cancel culture as it’s called, it just doesn’t end.
- Of course the primary focus of those doing the cancelling would be on historical figures, especially John A MacDonald, but if you look into the history of any founder of this country or person of significance, you’ll find a checkered past.
- Following the Premier’s comments Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker called the comments insensitive and the Treaty 6 chiefs re-affirmed their commitment to dissolve the protocol agreement between the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations and the Government of Alberta.
- The agreement was a document outlining a working relationship between the government of Alberta and Treaty 6 First Nations.
- In the media though it was reported that the decision to make this dissolution was a result of the Premier’s comments but the decision was made two weeks prior.
- The full transcript of Jason Kenney’s remarks are in our supplementals and provide an eye opening glimpse into a perspective on reconciliation that is seldom heard and when it is, is brushed away.
- The name of our podcast, Western Context, implies context is necessary in news. Context is also necessary in history and interpreting history through today’s lens often leaves out a great deal of historical context. Historians when first learning the history of Canada or any nation often look at it through the lens of 1867 or 1776 in America’s case.
- What we know today is not what we knew back then and that’s what provides the best historical learning experience, being able to juxtapose the history of yesterday with the current affairs of today. And you do that by looking at history and today with both the lens of the past and the lens of today.
- After almost a year of pressure, the BC NDP government has released its plan for forests - but many will be disappointed with the scope of their ideas, in what's called a plan to "modernize" its regulation of the forest sector.
- A paper released Tuesday lays out far-ranging “policy intentions,” including diversifying the ownership of forest tenures, or harvesting rights, and establishing a framework for compensation in the event those rights are redistributed.
- About half of the province's forest tenures are currently held by five major companies, and the new plan includes the goal to increase the tenures for Indigenous Peoples, forest communities and smaller operators.
- The province says it will establish a framework that will lay out under what circumstances tenure-holders will receive compensation for lost harvesting rights. It says it will be flexible when it comes to reducing forest licences to take into account the pressures on small operators or Indigenous or community operators.
- It also announced that it is committed to implementing the 14 recommendations from the independent old growth review by 2023. The report created by two foresters, Gary Merkel and Al Gorley, was released publicly in September 2020 and called for protection of old-growth forests out of concern the current management plan would lead to permanent biodiversity loss.
- Premier John Horgan said the existing tenure system is not meeting the needs of forestry communities, workers or “other players in the sector who want access to more fibre to create more jobs, more value-added products.”
- He said the government “very much wants the major players to continue to participate, but they have to understand that the old chasing volume is no longer viable in a time of climate change.”
- However, no new deferrals of logging old growth forest have been announced, including the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island, a hotbed of protests, where almost 200 people have been arrested by RCMP enforcing the injunction against people blocking the loggers from cutting down one of the last untouched forests on the island, which happens to be in Horgan's own riding.
- Environmental groups already riled by the pace of protections for ancient forests in B.C. were further provoked after the province failed to announce any new old-growth logging deferrals in its new vision for forestry Tuesday. Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee says: “If Premier John Horgan’s intention is to make the conflict raging around old-growth forests even worse, this is the perfect plan to do that.”
- Old-growth activists at blockades aren’t going anywhere after hearing the province’s plan, according to the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS), the grassroots coalition organizing the movement.
- RFS spokesperson Saul Arbess on Tuesday afternoon said “We’re profoundly disappointed. What you’re going to see is a strengthening of resolve, and a strengthening of the barricades.”
- “Old-growth protection was barely mentioned, and we’re not seeing any kind of sustainable ecosystem-based management. What we’re seeing is essentially business as usual with some modifications and changes, and a greater emphasis on allocation of timber to First Nations.”
- Arbess said more and more people from all walks of life and age groups are joining the protests, ranging from young adults all the way up to seniors.
- The premier was asked why Tuesday's announcement does not include immediate action to prevent logging of old growth trees in the Fairy Creek, and he gave a bizarre answer: "The critical recommendation that's in play at Fairy Creek is consulting with the title holders. If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place there, that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops."
- So pretty much Horgan believes that protecting hundreds of years old trees is analogous to the atrocities committed to First Nations children by the residential school system. The mental gymnastics it takes to even say such a thing is insane, especially when many of the protestors...are First Nations themselves!
- That quote also only appeared in the CBC article on the subject; all other publications have not included it. CTV summed up the quote rather badly by saying that "Horgan said consultation must take place with Indigenous nations before considering the possibility of deferrals." which isn't really what was said at all. Shame on our media for not reporting the premier's callous and crazy words.
- As said before, there is a balancing act where BC can have a healthy forestry industry that respects the land and creates jobs sustainably without logging the most precious of our forests that won't come back once they're gone.
- However, due to government mismanagement and market conditions, there have been 1,620 permanent, 420 temporary and 820 indefinite job losses in the forestry sector over the past few years.
- In 2018 and 2019, most major Interior forestry companies in B.C. announced curtailments at their sawmills due to lower lumber prices, reduced demand, high log costs, softwood lumber border tariffs and issues in accessing timber. Starting in July 2019, more than 3,000 Vancouver Island forestry workers spent seven months on strike before reaching a tentative agreement with Western Forest Products.
- The province says there has been a rebound in the industry and lumber prices are currently high, but at least 20 lumber mills have either closed or are temporarily inactive. Even with a lumber boom, BC is still dragging its heels, and the vast majority of the media only likes to report one side of the story.
- The talk of vaccines in Canada amongst those who are purely concerned with official narrative has shifted from “we don’t have enough” to Canada is doing very very well.
- How well do you ask? The narrative is now that outside of Israel we have the highest portion of the population receiving at least one dose. This argument taken on its own is very persuasive and you can bet Justin Trudeau will use it during a 2021 election.
- But we still lag behind many many countries in terms of fully vaccinated population, hovering at around the 5% mark as of recording.
- To aid in this the US is going to be sharing some of its excess doses, to the tune of 6 million, with Canada.
- The US will also be sharing with other countries as well through the COVAX program accounting for roughly 19 million doses but this has raised questions about what Canada will be doing with the extras we purchased that haven’t arrived yet.
- Recall that Canada purchased enough vaccines to inoculate the population 4 times over.
- A statement signed by 32 agencies including One, UNICEF, World Vision, the Mennonite Central Committee, Canadian Council of Imams and the Anglican Council of Indigenous People called on Canada to donate four million doses by the end of June to the COVAX program.
- The logic is that Canada will have enough doses to fully vaccinate the entire population by August. The group of organizations also wants Canada to donate 94 million excess doses by the end of the year.
- The federal government says a statement on sharing doses will be coming soon.
- Justin Trudeau is on record as saying that the pandemic doesn’t end anywhere until it ends everywhere.
- People in Alberta and Saskatchewan will be seeing the end by July. Other provinces by the end of the summer.
- This language from the federal government seeks to continue the current era of pandemic policy going for as long as possible. In all likelihood it will be outside forces that cause Trudeau to say the pandemic is over rather than making a bold assertion on his own.
- The push from these international organizations for Canada to make a donation speaks of how backwards our vaccine program has been.
- It points back to a time when the government was scrambling to ensure we would have enough doses for the entire population where they purchased excess vaccines, some of which may not even see use in Canada.
- In addition to the known Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, we’ve purchased an additional 76 million doses from Medicago, a Canadian company developing a plant based vaccine.
- 76 million from Novavax, an American based company.
- And 72 million from the widely known Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline.
- As it turned out the three winners were Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca in terms of widespread acceptance. The favourites have become Pfizer and Moderna.
- There’s a lesson in all of this: trust our allies and in particular the United States. We could have avoided this mess had we been at the negotiating table with the US government when they were ordering their own vaccines. All it would have taken was a capable Prime Minister or Foreign Affairs Minister to say, “we want 10% of what you order and we’ll pay slightly more to offset the currency exchange.”
- But now there are any number of metrics to herald our vaccine program as a success.
- Combined with excess doses the Trudeau government will be able to use their incompetence and voluminous orders to turn the story around and say that we were so successful that we have more than enough to share as requested by those international organizations.
- The government will do this and will point to any metric that shows Canada far out ahead and will make a persuasive argument that they should be re-elected with a majority on this success.
- It’s an argument that the media will parrot and Canadians will buy unless they have the full context of our vaccine program.
Word of the Week
Assimilation - the absorption and integration of people, ideas, or culture into a wider society or culture.
Quote of the Week
"The critical recommendation that's in play at Fairy Creek is consulting with the title holders. If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place there, that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops." - BC Premier John Horgan on why he won’t immediately protect old growth forests from being logged.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Uncovering Our Past
Teaser: The remains of 215 indigenous children are found near the Kamloops residential school, Jason Kenney warns of the danger of erasing our history, and John Horgan lays out a modern forestry plan. Also, Canada’s first dose successes can be misleading.
Recorded Date: June 4, 2021
Release Date: June 6, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes