Posted on June 19, 2023

Canada Should Consider Legal Solution to Fight Residential School Denialism: Report

Canadian Press, June 16, 2023

Canada should give “urgent consideration” to legal mechanisms as a way to combat residential school denialism, said a Friday report from the independent special interlocutor on unmarked graves.

Justice Minister David Lametti said he is open to such a solution.

Kimberly Murray made the call in her newly released interim report, just over a year after she was appointed to an advisory role focused on how Ottawa can help Indigenous communities search for children who died and disappeared from residential schools.

Her final report is due next year and is expected to contain recommendations.

The former executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada spent much of the past year travelling the country and hearing from different communities, experts and survivors.

The Liberal government created her role as it looked for ways to respond to First Nations from across Western Canada and in parts of Ontario using ground-penetrating radar to search former residential school sites for possible unmarked graves.

In her interim report, Murray raised concerns about increasing attacks from “denialists” who challenge communities when they announce the discovery of possible unmarked graves.

“This violence is prolific,” the report said. “And takes place via email, telephone, social media, op-eds and, at times, through in-person confrontations.”

Murray listed several examples, including after the May 2021 announcement by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation that ground-penetrating radar had discovered what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The findings garnered international media attention and triggered an outpouring of grief, shock and anger from across the country, both in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.


Lametti, who appointed Murray to her role, said that he is open to all possibilities to fighting residential-school denialism.

He said that includes “a legal solution and outlawing it,” adding some countries have criminalized denial of the Holocaust during the Second World War.

The federal government followed suit last year, amending the Criminal Code to say someone could be found guilty if they wilfully promote antisemitism “by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust.”

The measure does not apply to private conversations.

NDP MP Leah Gazan has also called for Parliament to legislate residential school denialism as hate speech.