Special adviser 'waiting' for feds to criminalize residential school denialism

A spokesperson for the Justice Department said special adviser Kimberly Murray's recommendations would play a 'critical' role in creating 'federal legal framework' to address residential school denialism.

Special adviser 'waiting' for feds to criminalize residential school denialism
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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The Department of Justice is still considering its options following an independent adviser's suggestion to criminalize residential school denialism earlier this year.

Kimberly Murray called on legislators in June to amend the Criminal Code, similar to an approach Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government took to making denial of the Holocaust illegal.

“We could do the same for Indigenous people,” Murray said, as reported by The Canadian Press, courtesy the Red Deer Advocate. “Make it an offence to incite hate and promote hate against Indigenous people by … denying that residential (schools) happened or downplaying what happened in the institutions.”

Since Holocaust denial has been law, the offence appears not to have been used, according to another CP story published by the National Post.

Murray, in her role as Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools, issued a report in June calling on the Trudeau government to take legal action against residential school “denialists.”

In her report, she raised concerns over “increasing attacks from 'denialists' who challenge communities when they announce the discovery of possible unmarked graves,” said a CP story shared by Peace Arch News.

“Prolific” violence Murray noted, “takes place via email, telephone, social media, op-eds and, at times, through in-person confrontations.”

Several examples among her findings came after media reports of “mass graves” at the Kamloops Indian Residential School made international headlines. Currently, no bodies have been recovered from the site of the alleged unmarked graves. 

Rebel News investigated the story in an attempt to discover what lies beneath the soil at the former residential school in Kamloops: The Buried Truth.

Former justice minister David Lametti said he was open to criminalizing residential school denialism. A spokesperson for Arif Virani, the Trudeau Liberals' new justice minister, commented on the issue last week.

“We must not ignore the lasting impact these schools had on Indigenous peoples — an intergenerational trauma that continues to be felt today,” said Chantelle Aubertin. “The denial of the atrocities that took place is painful for survivors, their families and communities.” 

Without specifics, Aubertin said Murray's recommendations would be “critical” to creating the “federal legal framework that will preserve and protect rights and respect the dignity of the children buried in unmarked graves and burial sites connected to residential schools.”

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