, 07.16.2021 02:45 PM

My latest: never again

The High Aryan Warrior Priest of Canada stirred.

“Jesus wasn’t a Jew,” he said, without blinking.

It’s a sunny, warm spring 1986. I’m a reporter for the Calgary Herald, now a Postmedia newspaper. Along with award-winning Herald photographer Larry MacDougal, I’m in the Caroline, Alberta kitchen of Terry Long, the then-recently-anointed leader of the neo-Nazi group called the Aryan Nations.

Larry and I have spent hours with Long, listening to him describe Jews as “the spawn of Satan,” non-whites as “mud people,” and Adolf Hitler as “Elijah the Prophet.” Seriously. With a straight face.

When the interview was done, and Long’s words were safely preserved in my tape recorder, I decided to challenge him.

“Mr. Long, Jesus was always Jewish and a rabbi,” I said to him, as Larry looked at me, wide-eyed. “And the Holocaust is a notorious historical fact.”

Long didn’t haul out one of his many firearms and shoot us, as Larry later told me he expected. Instead, Long almost seemed bemused by what I was saying.

He went into his family’s cluttered living room and returned with a “bible,” one published by the Aryan Nations. In it, he patiently explained, Jesus Christ was in no way Jewish. And the Holocaust did not happen, in any way, shape or form, he added.

“There’s proof,” he said. In other words, if historical facts don’t conform to your prejudices, then simply conjure up new proofs. Write your own bible, create your own history.

That’s what Terry Long did — and Jim Keegstra, and Ernst Zundel, and every other Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi leader I ever interviewed, too. They denied, dismissed and debated the Holocaust, to whitewash the crimes of Hitler and his regime.

And they created a Jesus Christ who wasn’t ever a Jew. Because the Messiah couldn’t be the “spawn of Satan,” then.

That’s what the experts blandly call historical revisionism. And it is underway in this country, right now. But not about Christ or the Holocaust.

It’s about what really happened inside those so-called residential schools. And what is buried in unmarked graves behind them.

Denying Indigenous children and babies are found in those graves — or, if they are in those graves, that they all died of natural causes. No crimes were committed, in other words.

That’s historical revisionism — in the current context, it’s denial of what is almost certainly cultural or literal genocide. It’s a disturbing trend, and this writer has seen it growing in recent days.

On social media, in comments underneath columns like this one, alongside articles about the increasing number of unmarked graves being discovered: The deniers are out there, patiently denying history. They’re relentless.

Is it to whitewash the sins of Sir John A. Macdonald? To excuse the Liberals, whose party was in power for most of the years in which residential schools operated? To subtly (and not so subtly) express contempt for the pain of the Indigenous community?

The reasons vary. The methodologies, too. But the effect is the same: To deny history. To sanitize the misdeeds and the crimes of the past.

It needs to stop. The residential schools existed. More than 100,000 Indigenous children were forced into them. Thousands died. And some — hundreds? thousands? — did not die of natural causes. (Why bury them in unmarked graves, then, if not to hide wrongdoing?)

Debate is good. Dissent is good. But denying terrible misdeeds — when there is proof of those misdeeds — is a terrible, terrible thing to do.

To both the living and the dead.

— Warren Kinsella was a Special Ministerial Representative for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs

12 Comments

  1. Westguy says:

    I would love, LOVE, to have a good, reasoned debate about this whole issue. I agree, you can’t debate away the fact of bodies in unmarked graves or the actions and legacies of residential schools. Some things are facts. It would be difficult to debate the “what” but what needs to be discussed is the “why”. I believe we can learn far more from discussing “why” rather than “what”. So far, attempts to discuss the why have been unfortunate and clumsy, and generally any comment that doesn’t reflect that only truly bad people do truly bad things and the people at the time should have known better is interpreted as a defence of residential schools, which it is not.

    • Nasty Bob says:

      The why ? Because of our national dream . No coincidence government launched the residential school system about 2 yrs before the last spike. That our dream was a nightmare for aboriginals causes so much cognitive dissonance amongst us we have to assuage it with a myth about having good intentions.

      The why? We wanted them off the land and this was a good way to thieve it. Give them “good” skill sets like reading and math to replace useful skill sets like horsemanship, hunting and trap setting.

      When they age out of school and go home to Isle a La Crosse , where there was no daily paper, library or bookstore, they’re alienated from the land and as helpless to survive off it as any settler would be; armed only with the knowledge of how to find the hypotenuse of triangle.

      Education, of course, is thought a good thing, so lots of people had good intentions . But that’s that’s the banality of evil , as Ardent called it. Jew hating Germany would not have come to be without good people with good intentions. When evil becomes morality everybody has good intentions.

      The antidote to this evil, according to Ardent, is correction, contrition and reconciliation . That’s the process people of good will are trying to undertake here. It will not be successful if government and others, permit people to think there’s no need to be contrite because intentions were good.

      On a less philosophical and more legal footing, the reconciliation process was designed to eliminate the need to determine who knew or ought to have known. The point was to skip the blaming and get on with the healing.

      Now some parties ( eg. Pallister Government) see how hard healing is going to be so they ‘re reneging on the process by apportioning and minimize blame ( ie. “good intentions “) Ironic because we used to have a very racist name for such behaviour.

      ( sorry to Bogart your War Room WK – but the dude thought he had an argument)

      • Westguy says:

        I still think I do have an argument.
        I think it was less about good intentions and more about simple cultural arrogance. It was the belief that natives were of an inferior culture and they’d be doing them a favor by getting rid of the inferior native culture and replacing it with the far more superior European culture. This was not the belief of a few but general consensus at the time. So the notion of “they ought to have known better” is retroactive hindsight. Does it make them evil? No, it makes them arrogant in their beliefs. Arrogance also allowed them to diminish the natives’ humanity. Residential schools is what happens when you combine arrogance with intentions
        This is why I think discussing the “why” is important. It’s something we maybe to learn from. Are there things we are doing now, driven by arrogance or a belief in intellectual superiority, that future generations might think we “ought to have known better”? I suspect most would respond “of course not, because we know more now, we’re smarter now we wouldn’t do such a thing. We’re not evil people, we don’t do evil things.” I would also suspect those people back then would have responded the same way.
        This is my argument.

  2. Nasty Bob says:

    And some — hundreds? thousands? — did not die of natural causes. (Why bury them in unmarked graves, then, if not to hide wrongdoing?)

    There is a presumption in law that says : If a record was made but not produced an adverse inference can be made against the party that fails to produce.

    Until records are produced that indicate otherwise it’s valid to assume many many did not succumb naturally. Why do you think some entities are actively resisting turning over records ?

    • Nasty Bob says:

      * Until and unless

      • Phil in London says:

        I am just a little younger than a baby boomer and it was in my adult life that I visited my birth parish, dropped a tenspot in the current priest’s palm and I was able to get an official baptismal certificate prepared from church books. I took that as proof of birth to apply for a government document.

        I have also spent too much time perusing church books and vital records and census of Ontario from the 1860s to the 1940s to believe there is no record.

        There are tons of civil and church records and the Catholic Church in particular took it as a priest’s role to convert and record souls saved through baptism.

        I find it impossible to believe that there are minimal records for any deaths after say 1890. In Ontario I would go so far as to say there are minimal cases where a death would not have multiple recordings.

        These church books exist and they need to be produced – privacy laws be damned.

        If these records do not exist it is an indictment of the genocide for if they were not worth recording they surely were not viewed as human or we at least sub-human.

        Enough is enough apologize, for starters release all birth records over 100 year old, deaths more than 75 years old (I believe they are not protected by privacy laws at that point)

        IT is high time that all memories are brought to the surface so we can truly learn how important it is to be aware of our society and our institutions’ workings.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    My initial exposure and education to this genocide — and make no mistake, that’s EXACTLY what is was — came twenty years ago when I learned of the BBs. I won’t spell it out because it’s far too painful for so many people but many will recognize those initials and the deadly context in which those initials applied.

    Governments and churches can never make up for what happened but they damned well better try and try harder. All this bullshit that if organization A publicly apologizes that they will have to part with their millions in court — way beyond contemptible. In 2021, we are so far away from What would Jesus do? that it reflects on our society and exposes it as almost sub-human.

  4. Phil in London says:

    As a nation we need to maintain our pride in our achievements and what we’ve built but we also must be honest about our mistakes and our sins.

    Understatement- That will be hard.

    I worry that there is a cancel culture around street name changes and statue toppling for example. If the names are erased it may bring temporary relief to some, but in the end if these names are erased than how do we remember the misdeeds?

    There is a balance needed. A balance where we do not deny atrocities but one where we don’t simply re-write as if no good ever occurred. Few in history were so vile they had no redeeming qualities. Let’s remember our forefathers did not have the benefit of knowing how things turned out 160 years later.

    I’m not willing to let them off the hook, we’ve spent decades making heroes out of dead men because society teaches us not to speak ill of them. I want the bad that our leaders have done to get equal light.

    Let’s be honest and much more humble about our nation but let’s also strive to build better going forward TOGETHER.

  5. Peter Williams says:

    Never again?

    Look at the lack of clean drinking water on too many First Nations. It is happening again.

    If there was a boil water advisory at Harrington Lake, how long would it take Justin to get it fixed?

    Trudeau says the Pandemic prevented him from meeting his clean drinking water promises. But the Auditor General reported otherwise.

    Never again? But it is happening again albeit in a different format.

  6. Patrick van Kessel says:

    Stop harassing me with political networks – people the folks behind this garbage aren’t entitled to a police state to pad their little esteem issues. I don;t care whop they vote for – they aren’t owed a police state to coddle their ambition and pad fools egos – ruining Canada – people like me actually make it on their own – try that instead of this cry baby bullshit network that terrorizes everyday people for fools egos – stop confusing ,my identity with people who would have been dead in my shoes and haven’t done shit for themselves.

  7. Bob Murdoch says:

    “I have met the enemy and he is us.”
    I’ve been on the reserves.
    I have Anishinabe friends.
    I live very close to a reserve.
    I have seen the now adult consequences of Residential Schools.
    I have heard the stories.
    I have seen some beaten and hopeless people.
    My bullshit tolerance is at an all time low.
    We have failed the first nations of this land, and ourselves. We numb the pangs of our guilt with perpetual rhetoric and we interweave denial in the artificial fabric of a flailing nation. The time for debate is over. The Residential Schools were a government sanctioned genocide performed by those we trusted the most and to whom we gave the most vulnerable. This, in my view is beyond reconciliation. “Friendly relations” will never be restored without real justice and part of that criminality not only lays with our Governments but is a dirty wicked blood stain on the Vatican. There is saying-“Deny, deny until they die.”

  8. Martin says:

    Looks like Bennett was showing her true side in her exchange with JWR:

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/bennett-staffers-workplace-1.6109493

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