In the same week, Canada and Israel both “discover” many apparent graves of missing and murdered indigenous peoples

Evidence of graves of murdered indigenous peoples discovered at St. Joseph Residential school (at left) in British Columbia, and at Tantura in Israel (at right). “Discovered” in quotation marks because in both cases, the families of the victims have been saying for years that the deaths occurred and the graves were there. Nobody listened. Now the truth is coming out….. read more…

“Tantura” an Israeli film about a massacre of over 100 Palestinians by Zionist forces in 1948, caused quite a stir after being released at the Sundance festival in January. Coincidentally it came out just as new information was reported about more deaths of indigenous Canadians, this time at a residential school in Williams Lake, British Columbia.

Despite the obvious differences – the Indigenous kids were not “intentionally” murdered – just allowed to die in large numbers from disease or malnutrition or even freezing to death while trying to escape, whereas the Palestinians were actually murdered in cold blood by Zionist forces – there is an obvious similarity. Three, in fact.

First is they both were acts of cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing. A settler colonial society was determined to create a new society by wiping out the remnants of the indigenous one.

Second, in both cases the victims communities have been saying loudly for years that the deaths occurred. Indigenous Canadians have been repeating to anyone who would listen that thousands of children died of disease and malnourisment. And Palestinians have also been saying for years that an atrocious massacre occurred at Tantura in 1948, one of many including others at Lod and Deir Yassin, as Yara Hawai told CBC’s Matt Galloway on “The Current” on Monday, January 31. Books have been written about it. Articles have been written about it. But Israeli society was not interested in listening.

The recent Israeli film is not even the first film about the massacre. A Palestinan film (Over their dead bodies) was made over 15 years ago, but was all but ignored.

What was the Palestinian fishing village of Tantura, is now an Israeli beach resort town renamed “Dor”. The beautiful white sands of Dor were red with blood in 1948.

Third, it wasn’t until the evidence became overwhelming, that the true story began to enter the consciousness of the settler society itself. In Canada, the report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission landed like a huge brick on the political landscape. It estimated that up to 4000 indigenous kids may have died while in residential schools.

In Israel, a similar scenario. “Palestinians Have Talked About the Tantura Massacre, but a Jewish Film Made It Fact”, ironically noted Haaretz magazine.

Truth – a necessary basis for reconciliation

In Canada as in Israel, it seems clear that reconciliation can only proceed on a basis of truth – a recognition of what happened in the past. Without recognizing and admitting historical facts, true reconciliation will not be possible.

Canada has timidly begun that process, but a lot more work remains to be done. While our churches and many politicians now recognize the reality of our colonial past, unfortunately too many Canadians are still in denial.

Israeli society is still largely in denial. But it is now facing mounting evidence of the massacres that took place in 1948. Israeli historial Benny Morris said that the “worst cases” were the Saliha massacre with 60 to 70 killed, the Deir Yassin massacre with around 112, Lydda massacre with around 250 and the Abu Shusha massacre with 60-70. In Al-Dawayima, accounts of the death toll vary.

Unable to ignore the evidence any longer, there is now a persistent effort to present the massacres as egregious exceptions due to the actions of “rogue elements” among the Zionist militias. However, finding driving the Palestinians out of Palestine was a strategic necessity for the Zionists. And even today, Palestinians show that they are very tied to their land. The Zionists realised that Palestinians could only be forced to leave by extremely coercive methods, including killings.

Human rights activists need to ensure that Israeli society is not allowed to limit films like “Tantura” to a ritual process of saying “sorry” about the past. Israeli massacres of Palestinians continue to the present. According to The Independent, a UK publication, Israel killed over 300 Palestinians in 2021 (three times as many as were massacred in Tantura in 1948). This has to stop.

News flash: On February 1, Amnesty International released a thorough report charging Israel with practicing apartheid against Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza and inside Israel itself!! Read the Amnesty Press release here.

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to


    1. Of course that is quoting Justin the unjust. One next must ask how he reached this position. There are only two conclusions possible. One suggests he is just dumb and uninformed. The other that he follows the money trail – justice be damned. Maybe both are valid.

  1. Thank you Peter for giving voice and space for this so very important documentary ,”Tantura”
    Indeed it is only by acknowledging the atrocities of the past that we can finally move forward
    in our attempt to correct the wrongs of the past . The atrocities committed in Palestine, unfortunately continue today and the world must be brought to acknowledge it . We , in Canada have our own soul searching to do also . It is the only way forward .

  2. Peter – I want to draw your attention to an unsupportable statement in your Headline. You refer to “mass graves of murdered and missing indigenous peoples” having been found in Canada. You point to St Joseph Residential School. There is no evidence that the graves found were “mass” graves, that is, combined or collective graves. The evidence from the detection devices (a type of ground-penetrating x-ray) used is that remains from separate graves sites were located. It is an important distinction. The children were buried in unmarked graves, a tragedy for sure, but they were not interred in the same grave. Secondly there is no evidence that the children were “murdered” as we understand the word in Canadian law. We can speculate about the cause of death, most likely disease and TB, but we don’t know at this stage until the remains are exhumed and examined. Stuart


    1. Hey Stuart,
      Thank you for clarifying. In your opinion, what would have been a more appropriate way to describe the finding of many apparent but unmarked burial sites.

      1. Certainly not “mass graves”. There need to be excavations to confirm whether there are indeed burials in the stated locations. For something so serious, it is very important that there is evidence.

      2. I am not a forensics expert. But here is a quote from Chief Willi Sellars.

        “This investigation has lead our team into the darkest recesses of human behavior. Our team has recorded not only stories involving the murder and disappearance of children and infants. They have listened to countless stories of systematic torture, starvation, rape and sexual assault of children at St. Joseph’s Mission,” stated Chief of William’s Lake First Nation, Willie Sellars.

        So far, 14 hectares have been searched around the institution, located just a few kilometres outside of the community of Sugarcane. This work has been done over the last nine months. The bodies of many children will remain unaccounted for even when the investigation is over.

      3. Hey Robin, thanks. Its always wise to look to evidence. But on the broader point, do you not accept that thousands of indigenous kids died in many schools, and that it was ignored/hidden for many years in Canada? Even though indigenous Canadians had been talking about it?

      4. Hi Peter, I have a more nuanced reading. I do not think that thousands of killed were intentionally “killed” or “murdered”. I think there were likely thousands who died (over 100 years) mostly from disease and from neglect+disease. I have no doubt that some of the horrendous stories are true. Some are not true (and this is also on the record.) Interestingly the death from disease comparing indigenous populations to the full Cdn. population was at a higher rate (not only schools but also on reserves) untill vaccines, at which point the death rates were similar. I do not consider there was a “genocide” (ie intentional mass physical killing, the way the term is generally used). I think there was an assimilation project, much of which was certainly misguided. Not all of it was malignant (as the TRC also pointed out). So it is a fraught debate that needs serious academic attention.All voices, all data, let’s open this up to scrutiny. There should be nothing to hide. It’s worth reading the more critical history out there. It is unfortunate that some of the conservative historians are giving this serious attention. The progressives need to get their ducks in a row. Some are given this a second look, but the public outcry is making this difficult — particularly when unmarked graves are said to = “mass graves”.

      5. Hey Robin, Thanks for sharing your “nuanced” reading.
        I don’t pretend to be an expert. But I note that Mark Miller, Minister of Indigenous services is less nuanced. “This is a compounding pain for Indigenous communities who have known this all along. The stories were there; they were denied. They were denied, perhaps, as an exercise in collective, willful blindness of a country who perhaps doesn’t want to believe that the atrocities have been committed on this land.”

      6. Minister Miller is premature, and should await the forensic investigation. As others point out, “there is no credible evidence” for some of the allegations, nor that “any such massive cover-up occurred.” Some of the more aggregious “genocide” claims are theories proposed by people such as the much contested anti-vaxxer and conspiracist Kevin Annett (look him up). So, let’s wait it out, before making broad assessments without proof.

      7. 1. “Do you not accept that thousands of indigenous kids died in many schools?” I suspect it would have been surprising if thousands of indigenous kids in many schools hadn’t died from “natural causes.” What was the death rate in ordinary orphanages at the time? What was the death rate for school-age children at the time? What was the death rate for children in remote indigenous communities at the time? Yes, let’s wait for the results of investigations.
        2. “Do you not accept that … it was ignored/hidden for many years in Canada? Even though indigenous Canadians had been talking about it?” We don’t know what “it” was. Some of the newly discovered graveyards contain white adults, too. It was not uncommon to not have markers; or for markers to be taken or fall down over the years. Yes, let’s wait for the results of investigations.
        3.“’Palestinians Have Talked About the Tantura Massacre, but a Jewish Film Made It Fact’”, ironically noted Haaretz magazine.” It’s a principle of our justice system that we don’t accept the uncorroborated word of plaintiffs.
        4. What concerns me is this new left-wing strategy of spreading guilt for past crimes. It seems to have worked for Zionists and Israel. Will it work for Palestinians (and Indigenous Canadians)? Six million is a lot more impressive than a few thousand.

    2. I agree that until the graves are opened the evidence remains speculative, but what isn’t questionable is the dire lack of notification by the church run schools of the deaths to the parents.
      How is it so many children dragged out of their homes and moved,in many instances hundreds of kms from their families, just simply disappeared from the schools without so much as a note stating “your child has gone missing.
      The world is watching and waiting to learn what is hidden in these graves,none with more anxiety than the families of the missing children.

      1. Allan, your point raises another question others have also remarked on. Is it likely that so many children were “killed” without significant pushback from parents and chiefs? The Kamloops school was set up by a local chief, remember. There’s something wrong in the calculus and it makes no sense. Community stories being passed on is one thing, but no parents would just “let it go” at the time. If there was large scale death from illnesses during epidemics/pandemics (and there was), then this makes far more sense, particularly if people everywhere were dying of the same. Then it’s an issue of disproportionate deaths, and potential school neglect. There would be burials but these are not [genocidal] “mass graves”. And it would be highly likely the graves would hold everyone from the area. Excavation would clarify. Who’s opposed to that?

      2. Hey friends,
        In deference to criticisms, i have changed the title from “mass graves” to “many apparent graves”.
        This is a blog about Israel/Palestine. The parallel to indigenous issues here is important but peripheral to the main story. In both cases (Canada and Israel) there is strong evidence that people were killed (or allowed to die), victims families have been saying so for a long time, and the dominant society has basically looked the other way as long as it could.

      3. In response to robinwcollins (below), Robin, I lived near the Kamloops school for years (following closure), and frequently heard the stories of suspected graves and of kids who just disappeared.
        As for the reaction from “parents and chiefs” to the deaths, the narrative was mainly that the deaths were never reported to either parents or chiefs by school officials. Don’t forget that most of the parents lived far from Kamloops,on remote reserves hundreds of kms from the school.
        I’m sure some deaths of “natural causes” would have been reported.
        We’re also looking at these first nations through a far more liberal eye than was offered from the school opening in the 1870s than in the 1980s and even later when the last of them finally closed.
        A chief’s status ended at the border of the reserve and “pushback” even when coming from delegations of chiefs calling for a return of their original reserve lands was met with silence as it still is today unless, somehow the first nations can get into court. Remember, it was illegal for a lawyer to represent a FN until the1960s. First Nations members were not even considered Candian,could not vote,nor seek legal representation until the ’60s. The Indian agent,who controlled the flow of money and decision making on each reserve, was the law.
        The reality of the residential schools is tied so much to the history of how these Canadians were treated by government throughout our history. There is the equivalent of volumes of evidence proving the ill and illegal treatment of the Indigenous.
        A litmus test for non-Indigenous Canadians might be to ask yourself how much of what you’ve learned of this Indigenous/Canadian history in recent years were you taught in school?
        Another factor here is that the Palestinian crisis is an active and ongoing problem,whereas our residential school troubles are more of a historic issue,unless of course,you are one of many still living with the numerous negative side effects of those schools.

      4. Thanks for this. I don’t doubt what you’ve provided. It is the current discourse and most of us (who’ve followed the subject) know about this. There’s also a big deference between 1870 and 1970, although you appear to conflate the decades in between. Nevertheless, there are unanswered questions, there was no genocidal intent (in the normal use of the term), and some uncertainty will be clarified with exhumation. My grievance with Peter’s blog was not on Palestine but the claim the two cases (Palestine, Canada) were equivalent, that there were “mass graves”, and many “murders” at residential schools. There is currently no convincing evidence for this.

      5. Hey folks,
        I did not say the two situations were equivalent. In fact, in my post I pointed out that the Palestinians were actually killed on purpose, while this is not being alleged with respect to the Indigenous kids.
        This has been an interesting discussion, but as this blog is on the Israel/Palestine situation, I won’t approve any more comments that are not on that issue. Best.

  3. The truth about modern zionism criminal foundation is slowly emerging and the hasbara image that things like 1960 “Exodus” movie and Joan Peters “From Time Immemorial” propagandist FICTION spread in the Western World is slowly but surely replaced by the true face of #APARTHEID #israel … The apalling thing is that those zionist crimes are still happening today …

  4. Truth is a form of moral resistance in the face of huge Israeli propaganda machine. Truth brings healing to everyone. While propaganda kills. Thank you, CTIP, for being part of the moral resistance movement. It is much needed for the sanity and survival of humanity.

  5. Peter, please correct my new posting, first line should read: “Hi Peter, I have a more nuanced reading. I do not think that thousands were intentionally “killed” or “murdered”…. thx

Comments are closed.