Letter of Brian Thorpe to the Vancouver Sun

September 16, 1997

Letters Editor
Vancouver Sun
2250 Granville St.
Vancouver, B.C. V6H 3G2

Dear Editor:

In a letter in the Vancouver Sun, Jennifer Wade once again slanders the United Church with unsubstantiated and untrue charges.

She refers to a “McCarthy-like” hearing involving Kevin Annett. Dr. Wade was present for much of this hearing and knows that the hearing was conducted according the rules of evidence of the Province of British Columbia and with careful attention to principles of natural justice. The three member hearing panel gave extradinorary amounts of time to Mr. Annett to enable him to tell his story. Mr. Annett also had the opportunity to call other witnesses on his behalf (an opportunity which he choose not to take). To call this hearing “McCarthy-like” is to trivialize the abuses associated with that era in American history.

She also claims that the church has been insensitive to the stories told by former residential school students such as Harriett Nahanee. The record will show that the United Church has encouraged and has hosted forums for former students to tell their stories. The record will also show that that the church has encouraged and co-operated with police and other investigations into allegations of criminal activity in the schools. In the case described by Jennifer Wade the RCMP did much more than conclude that the two men named were now dead. In fact, they concluded that “both documentary evidence (including a provincial death registration) and direct contact with relatives of the alleged victim indicated a death by natural causes.” What is “groundless” from the perspective of the United Church is not the painful stories told by people like Harriet Nahanee but, rather, the suggestion that the current leadership of the United Church has attempted to cover up any aspect of the history of the residential schools. What is equally groundless is the notion that there is any connection between such stories and the employment problems of Mr. Annett.

Jennifer Wade also suggests that the United Church is attempting to blame Ottawa for its mistakes. Mr. Annett’s former congregation has issued an apology to First Nations people for the legacy of the residential school system. The British Columbia Conference petitioned the General Council to apologize. The General Council re-affirmed the apology made by the church in 1986 and sought ways to express its repentance related to residential schools. The church, at the urging of many First Nations people, continues to pressure the federal government to acknowledge and accept responsibility for its role in the system. At no time and in no way has the church ever sought to suppress the stories arising out of residential schools or to evade our responsibility.

Sincerely,

Brian Thorpe
Executive Secretary