The former justice minister, a federally-appointed “special interlocutor,” an NDP MP, and now a Senate committee are all desperately trying to stop Canadians from questioning the narrative that thousands of indigenous children are missing in “unmarked graves” at former residential schools.

In May 2021, the Tk’emlúps First Nation of Kamloops, BC sensationally announced they discovered the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves. 

In reality, their ground-penetrating radar found 200 soil disturbances which were possibly caused by septic field drainage tiles. 

No remains have been uncovered.

Reliable evidence pointing to thousands of unmarked graves at residential schools is still lacking, yet the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples has recommended that “the Government of Canada take every action necessary to combat the rise of residential school denialism.”

The committee’s July 2023 report, “Honouring the children who never came home: Truth, education and reconciliation,” states, “Denialism serves to distract people from the horrific consequences of residential schools, and the realities of missing children, burials and unmarked graves.” 

“Of real concern to the committee is the small group of vocal individuals who try to undermine Survivors’ accounts of the hardships and abuse they experienced during residential schools.”

Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves Kimberly Murray was one of the committee’s witnesses. 

Murray has previously written in her own report that “Urgent consideration should be given to legal mechanisms to address denialism, including the implementation of both civil and criminal sanctions.”

In her report, Murray also claimed that grave-diggers were showing up to the Kamloops site in the night with shovels, hoping to dig up childrens’ bodies. The local RCMP detachment told True North they had no reports of such incidents. 

In response to Murray, Liberal MP and former Justice Minister David Lametti said he is open to “a legal solution” to “outlaw” questioning the residential school narrative.

According to Hymie Rubenstein of the Indian Residential Schools Research Group, this is an attempt to criminalize debate on important indigenous issues.

“This might be legally unprecedented if enacted and probably easily challenged as an infringement of the Charter’s free speech provision,” said Rubenstein.

“It may also be redundant given existing hate law legislation.” 

The Senate committee did not respond to a request for comment.

True North also reached out to newly-appointed Justice Minister Arif Virani to ask if he would continue David Lametti’s project of outlawing “residential school denialism,” but his office offered no response.


  • Lindsay Shepherd

    Lindsay holds an M.A. in Cultural Analysis and Social Theory from Wilfrid Laurier University. She has been published in The Post Millennial, Maclean’s, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, and Quillette.