There was a time spanning centuries when it was alleged that Jews used the blood of Christian children they murdered as an ingredient in baking matzos, the unleavened bread eaten in ceremonial Passover feasts to acknowledge and celebrate the release of Jews from Egyptian slavery. 

Ironically, murder is expressly forbidden in the Torah – the first five books of the Jewish Old Testament — as are the blood sacrifices that were practiced by ancient pagan religions. Indeed, Jewish dietary laws even forbid the consumption of blood in food and require all blood to be ritually drained from slaughtered animals before consumption.

This  Jewish blood libel was prominent throughout Europe from the mid-12th century, often leading to pogroms, and violent and even lethal riots launched against Jews, frequently encouraged by government authorities.

The Nazis made effective use of the blood libel beginning in the 1920s to demonize Jews in their antisemitic propaganda campaigns whose function was to rationalize the extermination of world Jewry, a task they nearly completed.

Holocaust survivors. [Jerusalem Post]

Today, this Jewish blood libel is largely confined to the Middle East. A 2003 TV series was broadcast in Syria and Lebanon based on the thoroughly fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times, a plagiarized work presenting Jews as a people who murder Christian children and drain their blood to bake matzos, among numerous other lies.

Those who think such repugnant myths would never gain traction in a civilized multi-cultural country like Canada should think again because we have our very own version of the Jewish blood libel, supported by numerous Protocols look-alikes such as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, namely an indigenous blood libel grounded in the belief that the Canadian nation-state, aided and abetted by the Roman Catholic Church, have been trying to exterminate the aboriginal people of our country from early contact in the 16th century to the present day.

The goal of this sentiment is to fuel hatred against the Catholic Church and the country of Canada, paralleling the 2004 US Department of State’s “Report on Global Anti-Semitism” (2004) that “The clear purpose of the [Protocols is] to incite hatred of Jews and of Israel.”

But the indigenous genocide blood libel — that countless children were murdered Nazi-style in Indian Residential Schools as part of a plot to wipe out all aboriginals— did not begin with stories by unnamed and unknown indigenous knowledge keepers, as most people assume.

Although many indigenous actors have been involved in this tangled web of deceit, what was originally a blood libel against Jewish people was re-jigged by a white man, a defrocked United Church of Canada minister named Kevin Annett. And its strongest promotion since then has been at the hands of an NDP member of the House of Commons, Leah Gazan, of all things, daughter of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who succeeded in getting unanimous agreement “That, in the opinion of the House that the government must recognize what happened in Canada’s Indian residential schools as genocide, as acknowledged by Pope Francis and in accordance with article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

The Indian Residential School genocide claim, now repeated by many indigenous leaders, elders, knowledge keepers and ordinary folk, legions of non-indigenous people including Justin Trudeau, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and ordinary citizens did not emerge in 2021 following the discovery of soil disturbance on the Kamloops Indian Reserve in British Columbia. Rather, it was invented many years earlier Protocols-style by a crackpot who has been selling snake oil by the bucketful to gullible indigenous and non-indigenous people alike for more than 30 years.

This excommunicated minister was exposed as a wild conspiracy theorist by the National Post’s Terry Glavin in a 2008 The Tyee investigative journalism article that continues to resonate to this day.

According to Glavin and others he quotes, Annett has been peddling outrageous lies for years such as: in the 1930s, a team of German doctors arrived at the Kuper Island Indian residential school and began conducting strange medical experiments on the children. Employing large hypodermic needles, they injected some sort of toxin directly into the chests of the school’s young inmates, and several were killed as a result, Nazi-style; in the 1950s and 1960s, aboriginal children at a Vancouver Island medical research facility were tortured with electrodes implanted in their skulls. At least one child was beaten to death with a whip fitted with razors, again a Nazi-like practice; at the Hobbema and Saddle Lake Indian residential schools in Alberta, children were incinerated in furnaces just like the Jews; at St. Anne’s Indian residential school in Fort Albany, Ontario, children were executed in an electric chair; at McGill University in Montreal, there is a mass grave containing the bodies of aboriginal children killed in experiments undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency’s top-secret MK-ULTRA program as was done at the infamous Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

No less outlandish was the May 2021 blood libel out of Kamloops, British Columbia.

The claim was that the priests and nuns operating the residential school had murdered and secretly buried 215 students, and that those clerics even forced children, “as young as six” to bury their murdered comrades. The “proof” offered — as in the medieval pogroms — were childlike horror tales that had long circulated in the community. That, and a ground penetrating radar report that was almost immediately discredited.

Do these children look like potential Indian Residential School Survivors sent to residential schools to be murdered? (Algoma University)

Parroted claims were then made by dozens of indigenous communities across the country –accusations that priests had murdered, poisoned, and secretly buried “tens of thousands” of indigenous children.

And, bizarrely, these claims were all wrapped in language that summoned images of that worst of all anti-Semitic tropes – the Holocaust. All living residential school students – even those who had expressed gratitude for their residential school educations – are called “Survivors” as if they were remotely equivalent to the handful of concentration camp survivors who escaped the Holocaust. If anything, this analogy is profoundly antisemitic.

Conversely, anyone challenging these fantastic claims is called a “residential school denialist,” another hateful analogy, this time to Holocaust denial. And, of course, the entire residential school project is now termed a “genocide,” a horrible mockery of the lives of the tens of millions murdered in proven genocides.

And even when excavations were carried out and nothing incriminating was found – such as occurred recently at Pine Creek, Manitoba, and previously at Shubenacadie and Camsell Hospital – the people making the claims continue to insist that the blood libel is true.

In short, there is no credible evidence of even one case of a secret murder and burial at any residential school, much less the “tens of thousands” claimed. Some genocide!

All these claims are not only baseless, they also show a profound anti-Christian, particularly anti-Catholic, bigotry.

Their material manifestation has been the burning and vandalism of dozens of Catholic churches across the country, Canada’s equivalent of Kristallnacht. To his eternal shame, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose to politicize the blood libel claims by calling the church burnings “understandable,” underscoring this outrageous assertion by ordering flags on federal buildings across the country to be hung at half-mast for nearly six months.

Over two years later, these false claims are still circulating like some contagious plague. Unlike a biological one, this cultural disease not only contains no evidence, but potential evidence is almost always carefully concealed. The Kamloops Indian Band that initiated the latest episode of the blood libel has even prohibited releasing the report they claim is proof of buried children while simultaneously refusing to excavate a site its leaders surely fear contains no human remains.

Meanwhile, the RCMP was either told not to properly investigate the Kamloops accusations or did so long ago and found nothing; the federal government continues to encourage even more false claims by handing out portions of $320 million to dozens of the communities that have made claims of clandestine burials; and the mainstream media is sticking to their story that there are “probable graves” at Kamloops containing the remains of 215 residential school students.

That the use of elementary logic has escaped this indigenous blood libel is revealed in the shameless contradiction between former Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller’s hyperbolic January 27 Twitter statement, “The ghoulish demand to see corpses — one article is unashamedly titled “In Kamloops, not one body has been found” — is not only highly distasteful but also retraumatizing for survivors and their families” and his contemptible July 13 damning of Manitoba’s Premier Heather Stefanson as “heartless” for refusing to support the fruitless search for the remains of two indigenous women thought to be buried in a Winnipeg landfill.

From “ghoulish” to “heartless” without skipping a beat shows political hypocrisy has no limits when it comes to blood libels.

So, just as Europe was possessed for hundreds of years by the spurious belief that Jews murdered Christian children to obtain their blood, Canada has now reverted to a Dark Ages nation where tens of thousands of indigenous children are believed to have been murdered and secretly buried by evil priests whose remains no one is allowed to unearth.

When this nightmarish period will ever end, nobody knows because, as in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945, so many powerful people are benefiting from its prolongation.

Hymie Rubenstein is a retired professor of anthropology, The University of Manitoba, and editor of REAL Indigenous Report.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired Manitoba judge and a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.