Posted on May 27, 2022

‘Biggest Fake News Story in Canada’: Kamloops Mass Grave Debunked by Academics

Dana Kennedy, New York Post, May 27, 2022

One year ago today, the leaders of the British Columbia First Nation Band Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced the discovery of a mass grave of more than 200 Indigenous children detected at a residential school in British Columbia.


What’s still missing, however, according to a number of Canadian academics, is proof of the remains in the ground.

Since last year’s announcement, there have been no excavations at Kamloops nor any dates set for any such work to commence. Nothing has been taken out of the ground so far, according to a Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc spokesman.

The alleged burial ground, which is said to include 215 bodies — some as young as 3 years old — was located with the help of ground-penetrating radar at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was run by the Roman Catholic Church from 1890 to 1978. The number of bodies was based on irregularities in the ground ascertained by the radar waves, according to an anthropologist hired by the band to scan the site.


“The system forcibly separated children from their families for extended periods of time and forbade them to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages,” according to the website of the First Nations and Indigenous Studies of the University of British Columbia.

Last May’s news sent shockwaves through Canada and across the globe. Within days, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decreed, partly at the request of tribal leaders, that all flags on federal buildings fly at half-mast. The Canadian government and provincial authorities pledged about $320 million to fund more research and in December pledged another $40 billion involving First Nations child-welfare claim settlements that partially compensate some residential school attendees. Pope Francis issued a formal apology on behalf of the Catholic church, which ran many of the residential school facilities and asked for God’s forgiveness. He said he planned to visit Canada later this year to further assist in healing and reconciliation.

But a group of about a dozen academics in Canada don’t believe the whole story.

“Not one body has been found,” Jacques Rouillard, who is a professor emeritus in the Department of History at the Université de Montréal, told The Post. “After …months of recrimination and denunciation, where are the remains of the children buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School?”


Rouillard, who first made his case for what he said was a total lack of evidence for the mass graves in a January essay, doesn’t deny that serious abuses may have occurred at residential schools.

But he and others question the highly-charged narrative about Kamloops school that includes children being murdered and buried in what some past school attendees say was an apple orchard.

“They use a lot of words like ‘cultural genocide,’” Rouillard told The Post. “If that’s true, there should be excavations. Everything is kept vague. You can’t criticize them. Canadians feel guilty so they keep quiet.”


Since the Kamloops discovery, investigators using ground-penetrating radar say they’ve located what may be the unmarked graves of another 800 or so children at residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, according to reports.

But, like Rouillard, Tom Flanagan, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Calgary, isn’t buying any of it.

“This is the biggest fake news story in Canadian history,” Flanagan told The Post. “All this about unmarked graves and missing children triggered a moral panic. They have come to believe things for which there is no evidence and it’s taken on a life of its own.”

Strangely, Rouillard, Flanagan and their associates have an ally of sorts in Eldon Yellowhorn, a professor and founding chair of the Indigenous Studies department at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

Yellowhorn, who grew up on a farm on the Peigan Indian reservation with many family members who attended residential schools, is both an archaeologist and anthropologist. He is part of the Blackfoot nation. He’s been searching for and identifying the grave sites of indigenous children at residential schools in Canada since 2009 after being hired by Canada’s powerful Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Many of the graves he’s identified at residential schools in other parts of the country, though, come from actual cemeteries and it’s not always clear how they died.

Some of those found had succumbed to disease, Yellowhorn said, citing one cemetery where it became apparent many children perished from the Spanish flu a little over a century ago.


As Yellowhorn sees it, the actual evidence for the mass grave at the Kamloops site is thin.