Grave Error challenges the prevailing media narrative on residential schools in Canada

Hymie RubensteinA collection of articles published by True North and a book called Grave Error: How The Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools), which was distributed in the community by Quesnel Mayor Ron Paull’s wife, Pat Morton, has provoked council outrage, feigned or real.

One copy went to the parents of Councillor Tony Goulet, also president of the North Cariboo Métis Association, who complained, “With my dad going to residential school, he brought up a lot of stuff; let me tell you it was contesting that they didn’t exist. Those things are real and they did happen to Indigenous people who went through the school, and especially if you were just picked up and taken to the school.”

Goulet, who claimed to have read the entire book, said that his issue is with its distribution to the community.

Goulet left unmentioned that none of the book’s writers or its two editors have ever questioned the existence of the Indian Residential Schools or the poor experiences of some of its students, especially those sent there from broken or orphaned homes.

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Speaking out of both sides of his mouth, Goulet said, “It was very disturbing. I was just appalled. People are allowed to have their opinion and I’m not against people having their opinion, but we shouldn’t be detesting things that have been taking place for years with reconciliation and what we’re trying to do with Indigenous elders and Indigenous people, we’re doing an actual injustice by saying here is a book, here is something you should read and look at and form your own opinion. It’s very, very, very traumatizing. It’s very, very, very disrespectful I think to an Indigenous community.”

Other council members also criticized the book’s distribution, though none appeared to be familiar with its contents or any of its possible errors.

The book’s distribution was front and centre at the Mar. 19 council meeting in response to a letter from the Lhtako Dene Indian Band debunking the book’s contents and distribution:

“It has come to our attention that the book entitled: “Grave Error” makes many harsh comments including: ‘truth has been turned into a casualty,’ implying that cultural genocide did not occur, and basically questioning the existence of Indian Residential Schools.”

The book’s contents neither refute the existence of the schools nor challenge their objective of assimilating Aboriginal children into Euro-Canadian culture. It also argues that “cultural genocide,” a politically charged term, was neither attempted nor accomplished by the schools.

Councillor Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, the council’s Indigenous relations liaison, was also very harsh, saying of the book’s distribution, “There is no excuse for this type of behaviour in our community period, and I don’t care that you think it’s about your own opinion and having the right to voice it, it’s about how this showcases our community to the rest of B.C. and to the world.”

Translation: emotion and public relations always trump truth during this radically “woke” period of Canadian history.

Roodenburg also said that the book’s distribution “showed a lack of respect,” seemingly indifferent to her own lack of respect for freedom of the press.

Mayor Paull distanced himself from the book and his wife’s efforts to promote it. Questioned whether or not he agreed with what his wife did, Paull said he did not.

“I haven’t even opened it; I have looked at the cover, but to be honest, I have no interest in looking at it,” he said, ignoring the foolishness of condemning the contents of a book he has no familiarity with while condemning his own wife for simply informing others of its existence.

In addition to criticizing a scholarly work that only one of its critics has read, the city council unanimously passed a resolution “to stand with all local bands in denouncing the book and agreeing with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” another study its members have likely never read.

This position suggests that reconciliation with Indigenous people requires condemning books no one has read while accepting assertions that are known to be false.

Welcome to “woke” Canada.

Hymie Rubenstein is editor of REAL Indigenous Report and a retired professor of anthropology at the University of Manitoba.

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