The heat has been turned up on Ottawa and the Catholic, Anglican and United churches as a new group, called the International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (IHRTGC), has been launched as a response to the approximately 50,000 missing children’s bodies from the dark days of the Indian Residential School genocide.
Reverend Kevin Annett, who has been fighting the churches and the federal government for many years, was on hand in Vancouver April 10 to unveil the sites of 28 mass graves. His aim was to shame the government and the churches into revealing how many bodies are buried under the grounds of the former schools.
“We formally announced (on April 15) that we are going to start sending people in the different communities to start gathering evidence,” Annett said.
He is hoping that more people come forward with their stories and knowledge of potential illegal burial sites to continue on their journey for a final resting place for the missing kids.
He and the tribunal, made up of Native chiefs and Elders, are calling upon the United Nations to help uncover the bodies of children as young as four.
“In effect we’re seeing this as an alternative to the government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which we don’t feel has the power to do an inquiry into this,” he said.
On April 15, hailed by the group as the fourth Annual Aboriginal Holocaust Memorial Day, Annett and his group announced their plan to investigate and protect these sites from destruction and cover up.
They are currently in the process of documenting residential school survivors’ stories on video.
“We are looking at getting all this information condensed into a report to be released in the fall,” he said.
April 19 marked another milestone for the IHRTGC as they presented their list of alleged burial sites to the United Nations in New York City.
Annett’s contacts at the U.N.’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues made a motion to try to make Canada accountable for its actions.
This past February, the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, another group Annett is part of, sent letters to the Queen, Ottawa and the heads of the three churches to come forward with their knowledge about the alleged mass murders and burial sites. They have not gotten a response.
“Even if people are put on trial it’s a symbolic act because you can’t try everyone. But we want to look at our own history and come clean with these things (through the Tribunal),” said Annett.
Annett’s group also produced eyewitness Sylvester Greene, who told the media of his involvement with the burial of a young Inuit boy at the United Church’s residential school in Edmonton in 1953.
“We were told never to tell anyone by the principal, who got me and three other boys to bury him,” he said. “But a lot more kids got buried all the time in that big grave next to the school.”
The Tribunal is hoping to “gather all of the evidence, including forensic remains to charge and indict those responsible for the deaths of the children buried therein.”
A survey team has already uncovered a massive sink hole through detection devices that suggest a mass grave at the former Port Alberni Residential School site.
Annett said that local coroners have the power to declare these sites crime scenes and that the police would be compelled to investigate.
The Tribunal also said, “Once these persons have been identified and detained, they will be tried and sentenced in Indigenous courts of justice established by our Tribunal and under the authority of hereditary chiefs.”
The Squamish Nation in B.C. is currently looking into creating a pseudo court system, based on traditional principles that would be given the power to convict those who committed crimes against the innocent children at the schools.
“It’s a potential way of holding the Canadian courts accountable,” he said. “Up until now, they have not made a ruling on genocide, so I think it might light a fire under them once they see that people are not going to wait for them.”
Since launching the film “Hidden from History” in 2005 that looks into the atrocities and crimes committed during the residential school era, Reverend Annett has been on a mission to bring to justice those who abused their power over countless children through every form of abuse and mistreatment.
Annett will stop at nothing to bring these people to justice, although as the years go by, more and more of the priests and nuns responsible for the crimes against Aboriginal kids are passing away.
“In the last few years there has been real movement on this. We forced the government to admit children died and that there were mass graves,” said Annett. “We’re trying to make these institutions and the people that worked in them to be held accountable.
“I think it’s moving in the right direction, we just have to keep applying the pressure.”