The rise in residential school denialism is directly related to how the federal and provincial governments have been handling reconciliation in Canada, according to the special interlocutor on missing children and unmarked burials.
Kimberly Murray, speaking to APTN News ahead of the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, said the federal and provincial governments needs to be more involved in recognizing Canada’s history.
“During the truth and reconciliation process, many of the provinces and territories started to implement curriculum on Indian residential schools and then we see changes in government,” she said. “And then we saw the curriculum being pulled back and now we see a rise in denialism.”
While some take to social media to question whether survivors’ claims are true, some news outlets, including the New York Post and the right-wing website True North News, have published articles denying their experiences.
“Studies have shown, academics have said the last step of genocide is to deny it happened,” said Murray, “and our government, by changing curriculum and cancelling curriculum is feeding into that last step of genocide.”
Murray also said that many records and archives remain under wraps.
“When I talk about churches and government need to step up and address the denialism, they hold the evidence,” she said. “We know it exists. They need to step up.”
Murray said reconciliation in Canada is taking place, but that it’s at a grassroots level.
“Reconciliation is happening more on the ground in small communities with their local governments, their local municipalities with their neighbours,” said Murray. “Where it’s not happening at the level that it needs to happen with the federal government or the provincial government so the closer you are to the First Nation, in some cases, the reconciliation has been better.”
Murray said the federal government needs to be more involved because there are large issues to deal including the establishment of an oversight body to make sure the recommendations from Indigenous advisors are being respected and ensuring there is public awareness of residential schools.
Murray’s mandate is set to end in June 2024.