Canada's Churches Burned Over an 'Indigenous Genocide,' New Excavation Results Tell a Far Different Story

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Two years ago, stories of mass graves in Canada began to circulate, being shared by everyone from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Pope. The anomalies, as they were called, were picked up by ground-penetrating radar and presented as proof that the Catholic Church had committed "tens of thousands" of secret murders and burials of indigenous children at residential schools.


For example, in May of 2021, a claim was made that over 200 indigenous children had been murdered and buried in a mass grave. They were aptly dubbed "the missing."

“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” Rosanne Casimir, chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, said in a statement on May 27, 2021.

After the announcement, Canada's government decried the claimed discovery, pledging millions of dollars in reparations while seeking to shut down anyone who questioned the narrative. Because the Catholic Church had run the residential schools in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Pope also put out a statement alleging a genocide had occurred. 

To be sure, the story didn't seem out of bounds at the time it emerged, and certainly, Canada didn't treat the indigenous people it supplanted well. There's no reason to believe abuse didn't occur at some residential schools given the timeframe and historical precedent. 

Still, it's a far different thing to charge the secret murder of tens of thousands of children, including 215 being placed in a single mass grave. In fact, the broader allegation is that there are thousands of unmarked graves beneath residential school sites scattered across the Canadian countryside. That's the kind of thing that leads people to seek retribution, and sure enough, that's what happened. 

In the two months following the reports of the supposed mass graves, no less than 68 different churches were burned or vandalized in Canada, with even political and indigenous leaders speculating it was in response to the announcement made in May. 


To this day, Christians are harassed as "deniers" (or are forced to resign their positions) if they even question the narrative around the claimed genocide. 

“The evidence does not support the overall gruesome narrative put forward around the world for several years, a narrative for which verifiable evidence has been scarce, or non-existent,” James C. McCrae, a former attorney general for Manitoba, wrote in an essay published last year.

McCrae resigned from his position on a government panel in May after his views on residential schools outraged Indigenous groups and other activists and politicians.

Now, years after the fact, we are learning that there's essentially no evidence that a genocide took place at all. Excavations were performed at multiple sites over the summer where mass graves were alleged to have been detected. Those excavations have produced no human remains. 

After two years of horror stories about the alleged mass graves of Indigenous children at residential schools across Canada, a series of recent excavations at suspected sites has turned up no human remains. 

Some academics and politicians say it’s further evidence that the stories are unproven.

Minegoziibe Anishinabe, a group of indigenous people also known as Pine Creek First Nation, excavated 14 sites in the basement of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church near the Pine Creek Residential School in Manitoba during four weeks this summer.

The so-called “anomalies” were first detected using ground-penetrating radar, but on Aug. 18, Chief Derek Nepinak of remote Pine Creek Indian Reserve said no remains were found. 


In response, some are calling what occurred a blood libel against Christians and the Catholic Church. Yet, despite the results of the excavations, the Canadian government and indigenous tribes are still insisting that the mass graves exist, doubling down on slandering anyone who questions the narrative. 

Again, that's not to say native peoples' in Canada were treated well. Obviously, there were great injustices that occurred. I don't think anyone would suggest indigenous tribes weren't abused in the centuries surrounding the settlement of Canada as a territory and country. Those injustices should be accounted for and acknowledged.

Still, that is not an excuse to spread unproven tales of mass graves and genocide that have led to the burning of Christian churches and possibly worse. Government leaders, and yes, even indigenous leaders, should not be throwing around allegations that allude to the Holocaust without evidence. To do so is supremely irresponsible and harmful.



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