Truth before Reconciliation: How to Identify and Confront Residential School Denialism

Sean Carleton
Truth before Reconciliation:  How to Identify and Confront Residential School Denialism

Dr. Sean Carleton, Department of History and Indigenous Studies, University of Manitoba

February 1, 2023
Hybrid in TH201 and Online

In 2017, Lynn Beyak, a Canadian Senator, delivered a controversial speech defending Canada’s Indian Residential
School system (1883–1996) as being ‘well-intentioned.’ Made shortly after the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission of Canada released its final report to show Canadians the evidence of how residential schooling for
Indigenous children and youth constituted genocide, the Senator’s speech sparked national debate. This talk
historicizes and theorizes the role of denialism in colonial settings to argue that speech acts such as Beyak’s can
be understood as a discursive strategy used by colonizers to legitimize and defend their material power, privilege,
and profit. The talk examines Beyak’s public comments as well as 100 support letters she received and published
on her Senate website to show how they embrace anti-Indigenous racism generally and employ residential school
denialism specifically to attack and undermine truth and reconciliation efforts in Canada.

Truth before Reconciliation presentation by Dr. Sean Carleton