Response to: Holocaust Denial In Canada, Times Colonist (July 16, 2000)

The Kevin Annett article “Holocaust Denial in Canada,” July 16, 2000, is a strange blend of half-truths and unsubstantiated charges that has marked his crusade against the United Church in recent years.

Mr. Annett presents himself as a lone ranger voice for justice.

We know of no First Nation who endorses the work, style and/or comments of Mr. Annett. In fact some, like the Circle of Justice group with whom Mr. Annett worked closely for a number of months, have taken pains to distance themselves from Mr. Annett.

In a public statement they say to Mr. Annett:

That you have repeatedly in print and word spread unproven gossip, conversations given in confidence for reasons of security, information, sources of information and ongoing investigations that could compromise and has compromised First Nations activists and certain struggles and activities;

That you have repeatedly in print and in word, slandered and libeled, without evidence, trusted and dedicated First Nations activists (who dared to disagree with you or pose some penetrating and tough questions) with summarily-declared labels like”RCMP agents” or “The Eyes and Ears of the RCMP” or “Government-paid stooges” and with no regard to the damages done to them personally or to the struggles of which they have been trusted and effective instruments; and

That you have summarily and for purposes of self-promotion, assigned to yourself and used in print and in word non-existent titles like “Advisor”, Chief Researcher” (we have not seen even one piece of your research), “Chief Expert Witness to the Vancouver Tribunal” and others that were neither authorized nor voted on and ratified by the Circle of Justice.

Let there be no question that the United Church of Canada was involved in the running of residential schools on behalf of the Canadian people and the federal government. The United Church has repeatedly acknowledged this, apologized for its historic role and has gone on record as determined to pay our fair share of compensation due those who were harmed during those years. We will bring an honest accounting of resources to the table.

Ultimately though, the twisting of detail proves most damaging to a true understanding of the source and toll of residential schools. The story of these schools is not some made-for-TV movie subject to Hollywood stereotypes and characterizing it in this way does great disservice to those for whom this still provides painful and difficult wounds. Residential schools were born in a society that, by and large, viewed the assimilation of First Nations as appropriate, by any means. The church had its role but so did the Canadian public and government. To provide credence to the Annett perspective of historical record prevents the kind of profound examination and repentance that needs to happen if the deep scars caused by the legacy of residential schools are ever to be healed.

The United Church is far from perfect or blameless. But we do stand ready to work with First Nations people and communities and the federal government so that those most damaged receive as much help as possible.

As for Annett’s charges of murder, secret graves and death camps, we say again – “Anyone having knowledge of such incidents should report them immediately to the RCMPolice or an appropriate First Nations agency!” The United Church long ago opened its archives on this unhappy period in all of our lives and will continue to cooperate fully in any investigation.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Keith Howard
Executive Secretary (Acting)
BC Conference
United Church of Canada.