William's Answer to Canadian Holocaust Deniers: A Memory of the Heart
by Kevin Annett
Last night, I came across a nearly-forgotten video of my murdered friend William Combes. Early in March 2008, he gathered with other Canadian death camp survivors in the Catholic Church office in downtown Vancouver that we occupied.
In the video, William stands in the floodlight glare of a CBC TV camera and quietly describes the bodies of children he helped bury in the orchard of the Kamloops Catholic “Indian residential school”. But his next words provoke gasps of horror, even from the street-hardened Indians standing around him.
“I didn’t know what the smell was, what burning flesh smelled like. But they kept those furnaces in the school burning twenty-four seven. I saw Brother Murphy and a nun shove those little bodies in there and they burned them up.”
William’s words were never televised. But regardless, he was so happy and proud that day because he had overcome his demons to tell the truth. And that glimmer in him endured, even to the day that he was killed by arsenic poisoning in St. Paul’s hospital.
Oh, the glorious agony of all those long years of protest, of careful documenting of the crime, of confronting the stone-faced killers who denied, and evaded, and killed again! How the sacrifice and victory of those years flooded into me as I stared through my tears at my vanished friends and comrades who faced down Goliath with a valor that has no equal! And how bittersweet are those recollections, now that the memory of my friends and the horror they revealed has been exterminated as completely as the children they helped bury!
How I long to be with my fallen comrades again and stand once more in the radiance of our devotion! How I wish I could take William’s hand and tell him how the truth has won, that the murderers were finally brought to justice, that Christian Canada finally stood under judgement and a great reckoning for its unspeakable and continuing crimes!
But even if the dead could return, I could tell them no such thing. I would tell them, as I do in my prayers and my dreams, that nearly half of my life and all of theirs was consumed in a battle that we lost. For the killers remain in charge. The mass graves and incinerated children are obliterated and swabbed from national memory. And the country is as oblivious to the truth of its real, genocidal nature as it was when we began our impossible struggle against every odd, nearly thirty years ago.
But all is not lost, I hear the dead reminding me. The Thing has been revealed. And even as it reaches out now to consume and destroy its faithful servants, the craven Canadians who profited off its depredations for so long, even now, the Thing’s days are numbered, and it will fall. But its collapse will mean the ending of all that we know, this murderous and irredeemable world in which no just soul can participate.
We few veterans have won our freedom from that horror; it has no hold over us anymore. For we have been through the fire of destruction that burned away our lies and our complicity and has made us fit for something better. And how much brighter and better must that new world be, for see what it has cost us to bring it to life!
William Combes endures, despite everything. Homeless, poor, persecuted, and murdered, we few witnesses persevere in that land of eternity where the Thing cannot reside. For death has no dominion over the pure of heart, whose words and deeds are one.
Tune in this Sunday May 29 for more, on https://bbsradio.com/herewestand at 3 pm pacific, 6 pm eastern, 10 pm GMT.