Thursday, February 10, 2011
Kevin Annett in Montreal: March 21, 2011
I first heard of Kevin Annett back in 2003 when I was researching the story of Cold War experiments on children. Writer Max Wallace asked me if I knew about the former United Church minister out west, who had compiled affidavits from former residential school inmates who claimed to have witnessed experiments conducted by German doctors on native children.
Three years later, I was in Vancouver and called Kevin Annett. We met in a downtown cafe. Since then we've stayed in touch. Getting to know this heroic man marked a turning point in my life. Kevin Annett is one of those rare Canadians who, when confronted with blatant, systemic evil, absolutely refused to make a deal with the devil, and paid a high price for his integrity. That's why I think his remarkable story needs to be told and retold, and taught to school children, as well as in universities -- because we have so few examples, in our history and literature, of people like Kevin Annett.
Back in 2001, I'd lived in Kamloops, a town of cowboys and Indians - real cowboys and real Indians -- divided by a bridge that, among other things, separates the whiter, south side of town from the reserve on the north shore. I'd had a few First Nations students, a brilliant boy from up north who was hearing-impaired and dropped out of my class. And a girl called Crystal Narcisse. whose brother Bobby was accused of killing a white boy on the bridge in a drug deal. She attended one class, and never returned. This was standard, I was told. “They’ll show up at the beginning of the semester, but most will just disappear by mid-term.” It was a mystery, why they vanished like that – my colleague shrugged – like Mohicans. Perhaps they felt more at home in their own territory, the forests and mountains.
I'd attended a powwow in a high school gym, an amazing event that included a closed-door meeting of residential school survivors who were being encouraged to speak up about their memories of abuse. But my fellow teachers at the college, and my neighbours, who were white, told me not to put too much stake in the "rumours" -- First Nations people were always trying to take advantage of the system. "Why should they always get special treatment?” asked one woman.
There was Harry, the native man whom I met at the home of a student, who once or twice called my office, sounding drunk, wanting to come over and tell me something that he couldn’t bring himself to talk about. I didn't understand why he was prone to weeping on the phone, but the rigidity of the white community shocked me more. Kamloops was redneck city, with stunning scenery and two-stepping couples in cowboy hats and boots whirling around the dance floor at Cactus Jack's bar downtown.
I left when my contract ended, in 2002. Scenes remained frozen in my memory, just below my horizon of understanding.
Looking back, I realize the figure of Kevin Annett hovered in the background of those days. He was the one that broke the silence and took the heat – more than most white men face in a life time.
In 2002, he had just published Hidden From History: the Canadian Holocaust, and copies were circulating around the native communities.
In 2006, I finally met him at Blenz on Davie Street in Vancouver, a rainy afternoon. He walked in and my first impression was that he looked and acted like a hunted fugitive. He wore a long green raincoat and a battered hat. I had some money then. I bought his book for $40. It was filled with documents and photos and testimonies proving that Canada had been the scene of some horrific crimes against humanity.
I’m sure he wondered if I were an agent, but we hit it off. Later, we would meet in public places where he felt comfortable, like the downtown library. He spent part of the week in the downtown east side, where he a radio show at Coop Radio. I learned that some of the most interesting people in Canada hang out in that neighbourhood.
One of them is Kevin Annett.
His story defies commentary. It is so obviously the naked truth told by a naked man, stripped of everything but his story.
There are people who sell horror as entertainment and they work together with the ones who sell advice on how to “quiet the mind” and “become one with God.” This is called “brainwashing” –
Then there are people who tell the horrible truth, not for profit, but to make us aware and capable of resisting. These are called “whistleblowers” – they are often close cousins of “scapegoats.”
Canadians need to pay more attention to what is being done in their name.
The year 1995 seems to have been a critical time for our elite. Across the country, stories of atrocities were starting to surface. Duplessis Orphans in Quebec, residential school survivors in the west, and south of the border, the Clinton Commission had unleashed a flood of testimony from former children who had been tortured in the ultra-top-secret MKULTRA “mind control” program.
Child abuse on a colossal scale was becoming a national obsession.
A huge story was brewing, one that our mainstream media had been ignoring for decades. Our institutions, our faith in our leaders, and the whole structure of our political system would have been shaken by news of hidden crimes against humanity, headquartered in Canada.
That same year, Canada’s newspaper publishing empires began tightening the screws on independent journalists – who would have been the obvious messengers and interpreters of these unprecedented revelations.
That same year, the United Church of Canada began the process that would lead to the defrocking of Kevin Annett, the man who brought the residential schools abuse scandal to light.
It’s a story that speaks volumes and guarantees Annett legendary status – not that it helps him in the short run, but better a living legend than a sacrificial victim. The chain of victimization and human sacrifice does not end with him – his supporters have been targeted, even killed, in recent months in what would seem to be a stepped up effort to crack down on his movement. Kevin has his detractors, but many more supporters – witness the string of birthday messages on his Facebook page recently (and Kevin does not even like Facebook!). His enemies seem to realize that.
Ultimately, Canadian society needs to answer for the deaths and disappearances amounting to decades of genocidal treatment of aboriginal populations. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a step in that direction, does little to heal the wounds of survivors, but it bandages them with rhetoric. Has Canada really changed, and is it capable of delving into its own past and naming the perpetrators? Probably not, because the perpetrators are still in charge.