A small British Columbia city’s council is reeling after people were exposed to heterodox views.

Specifically, an edited collection of articles published by True North and Dorchester books called Grave Error: How The Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools), which was distributed in the community by Quesnel Mayor Ron Paull’s wife Pat Morton.

One copy went to the parents of Coun. Tony Goulet, also president of the North Cariboo Métis Association, who complained, “With my dad going to residential school, he brought up a lot of stuff, let me tell you it was contesting that they didn’t exist. Those things are real and they did happen to indigenous people who went through the school, and especially if you were just picked up and taken to the school and everything was taken away from you so, very emotional, it was very hard for me to take.”

Goulet, who claimed to have read the entire book, said that his issue is with the fact that it was being circulated and distributed to the community.

Goulet took no issue with the fact that none of the book’s writers or two editors have ever questioned the existence of the Indian Residential Schools or the poor experiences of some of its students, especially those sent there from broken or orphaned homes.

“It was very disturbing. I was just appalled. People are allowed to have their opinion and I’m not against people having their opinion, but we shouldn’t be detesting things that have been taking place for years with reconciliation and what we’re trying to do with Indigenous elders and Indigenous people, we’re doing an actual injustice by saying here is a book, here is something you should read and look at and form your own opinion. It’s very, very, very traumatizing. It’s very, very, very disrespectful I think to an Indigenous community,” Goulet also stated.

Other council members also criticized the distribution of the book, though none appeared to be familiar with its contents or any of its possible errors.

Quesnel’s population is 20% Indigenous and the issue of the book’s distribution was front and centre at the Mar. 19 council meeting in response to a letter from the Lhtako Dene Indian Band debunking the book’s contents and distribution:

“It has come to our attention that … the book entitled: “Grave Error” … makes many harsh comments including: ‘truth has been turned into a casualty,’ implying that cultural genocide did not occur, and basically questioning the existence of Indian Residential Schools.

“The Nation should not have to defend the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the T’Kemlups te Secwepem’c First Nation, and the Williams Lake First Nation (amongst others) that have been so severely castigated by the authors of the book. The calling into question of what our Nation went through is a slap in our people’s collective faces and is very hurtful to them. The Nation has a significant number of members who suffered through attendance at a Residential School and today suffer through the long-term trauma of what they went through. The book adds to that hurt.”

The book’s contents, for those willing to read them, clearly shows that although integration with Euro-Canadian culture was their aim, “cultural genocide,” a politically loaded but extra-legal synonym for total assimilation, was neither attempted nor achieved by the schools.  

Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, the council’s Indigenous relations liaison, was also very harsh in her comments, saying of the book’s distribution that there “is a consensus among the nations that this is not okay, that their elders and communities are suffering because of this being out in the community.”

There is no excuse for this type of behavior in our community period, and I don’t care that you think it’s about your own opinion and having the right to voice it, it’s about how this showcases our community to the rest of B.C. and to the world,” she said.

Translation: emotion and public relations always trump truth-telling during these DEI dominated times.

More particularly, Roodenburg was calling for the censorship of a book that continues to be an Amazon best seller with thousands of copies sold.

Roodenburg also said that the book’s availability “showed a lack of respect,” apparently indifferent to the lack of respect for freedom of the press her statement carried.

Mayor Paull distanced himself from the book and his wife’s efforts to promote it. Questioned by Coun. Scott Elliott on whether or not he agreed with what his wife did, Paull said he did not.

“I haven’t even opened it; I have looked at the cover but to be honest I have no interest in looking at it,” he said.

How could he therefore condemn the contents of a book he has no familiarity with, in the process condemning his own wife for simply informing others of its existence?

Besides attacking a scholarly work, none of its critics appear to have any even given a glance.

Council unanimously passed two motions: (1) to-meet with elders who had first-hand experience with residential schools; and, (2) to stand with all local bands in denouncing the book and agreeing with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, another study its members have likely never read.

Does this mean that reconciliation with Indigenous people requires condemning books no one has read and accepting assertions that are known to be false?

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


  • Hymie Rubenstein

    Hymie Rubenstein is a retired professor of anthropology at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada who is now engaged in debunking the many myths about Canada’s Indigenous peoples.