I had known of the terrible abuses practised since 1880 among the West Coast Indian schools operated in Canada by the three major church organizations. Never until this incredible book came into my hands had I gauged the enormity of these crimes and the microcosm they represent of the centuries of abuse that we of European extraction have perpetrated on the native peoples of North America.
In this startling book, Kevin Annett describes how, as an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada in a small Vancouver Island community, he discovered almost by accident evidence of the history of incredible abuse over more than a century in the "religious schools" run by the churches and supposedly created to educate coastal Indian children.
He proceeds to lay bare what he calls "the Canadian holocaust," which in a larger sense indicts the 'pale invaders' of the Western Hemisphere. In so doing, he exposed himself to an unbelievable inquisition and persecution at the hands of his employer the United Church. Desperate to cover up his revelations, that Church through its immense power succeeded in stripping him not only of his livelihood and a promising career, but of his family and his reputation.
On more than one occasion physically threatened and attacked by anonymous thugs, he was denied recourse by the courts while being subjected to a farcical kangaroo court devised by the United Church of Canada.
He is afforded little recognition much less help by the Canadian government which, extending back to the 19th Century, was itself complicit in the abominable history of the Church's abuses (and those of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church "schools" as well).
And then, unbelievably, after he has been unfrocked, expelled from the Church and made the victim of a campaign of falsehood, he is blocked in his attempt to formalize his voluminous factual findings in a thesis toward a Ph. D. degree at his Alma Mater, the University of British Columbia. (He had previously earned a degree in anthropology, by his own choice declined completion of his law degree after two and a half years of study, but had gone on to earn Master's degrees in both History and Theology).
Although having completed all of the course work toward the Ph. D. degree with a grade-point average of 88%, he was mysteriously denied permission to present his thesis toward that degree. (The University, one of the foremost in Canada, was and is substantially endowed by MacMillan Bloedel, the giant forestry company that he had alleged to have figured prominently in the Church's illegal selling of Indian land!)
Today, after 14 years of struggle against enormous adversaries, Kevin Annett has attained a degree of legitimacy in his quest for justice. He has written two books, and written, directed and produced a documentary film, "Unrepentant," which won the award in the "Best Director" category at the New York Independent Film Festival in 2006, and recently premiered in Los Angeles. He has the support of two radio stations in Vancouver and Montreal, he is pastor of a native and white congregation in Vancouver's skid row district, and he has founded an organization under the auspices of the United Nations to document genocide and other abuses.
Never in history, perhaps, has a single man stood up alone against such formidable adversaries, because of his insistence on the truth and justice for native people. And so, Kevin Annett's greatest achievement is not only that he engaged such colossal forces, but that he lays bare the guilt that he insists we must all bear, as did the German people following the Nazi pogroms.
We are equally guilty, Kevin Annett insists, all of us who - as part of the European invasion of the Western World - strove (almost succeeding) to annihilate most of this Hemisphere's 100 million people!
As Martin Luther King claimed on behalf of 22 million black Americans, only when we collectively turn from denial and acknowledge our guilt, can true peace and freedom be declared for this country, this continent, and this hemisphere.
Kevin Annett is worthy of the legacy of Martin Luther King.
He is deserving not merely of a book award, but of The Nobel Peace Prize.
- Betty M. Richeson