The St'at'imc Runner, February 2008 issue
Once a Black Robe, Always a Black Robe
Former church minister solicits Survivors' stories, misuses names. Some Residential School Survivors have shared stories of abuses they suffered in the church-run schools. When a personal disclosure is given in confidence, it should be kept private.
Kevin Annett is a former minister with the United Church. Annett, who has recently claimed that he is Metis, runs a website called "Hidden from History," and has made a film called "Unrepentant." He had a radio show on Vancouver's Co-operative Radio station. (Vancouver BC) Also he has started an organization he calls the "Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada."
The subject of all of these media programs is the genocide against native people, but specifically the Indian Residential School system. Much of the accusations he makes against the church and Canada in regards to their role in covering up the horrors of residential schools can be verified by Survivors. However, Annett has used peoples' private disclosures without their consent, he has misrepresented people on radio and in print, and has betrayed the trust of many Survivors by using their stories in various ways without their permission.
James Craven, a professor of economics at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, talks about the abuses of trust and truth being carried out by Mr Annett, who has recently taken to calling himself "Eagle Strong Voice." According to Craven, a long time friend of the late Elder Harriet Nahanee from Squamish, Annett published her testimonies that she had told him, but without her knowledge or permission. Before her passing, Nahanee circulated a letter to this effect. The late Kitty Sparrow also wrote a similar letter about her experience with Annett. It is unclear why someone would do these things to people who have surely had enough suffering for one lifetime.
There may be a clue in that the subject of the movie "Unrepentant" quickly turns from that of Survivors' stories to the story of Kevin Annett. Yet that story remains something of a mystery owing to contradictory claims and reports. Annett claims that he was dismissed from United Church ministerial duties when he started asking his superiors what was being done about residential school crimes. Another dissident minister from the same church contradicts that, saying Annett never mentioned residential schools until well after he had been dismissed.
Survivors desperately want to be heard. They want to tell their story to someone. A person who claimed to be seeking justice from the church and Canada, and had himself been a self-appointed representative of god in the United Church, would be in an ideal position to gain the trust of a wounded soul. James Craven's mother, a Blackfoot woman, was victimized at a residential school in Idaho, and actually committed suicide because, as she put it, the demons had come home to roost. "The thing that really gets me going is that the cause is sacred. The things he says about murder and genocide are true. That's why you don't want him involved with this cause - because the cause gets impeached with him," explains James. "In my protected opinion, he exhibits the characteristics of malignant narcissism and psychopathology."
Helen Michel is a Carrier Sekani woman who suffered terribly in residential school. She met Annett some years ago, and disclosed to him some stories of residential school impacts in her home reservation community. "Kevin said a lot of things on the Co-Op radio, apparently he said we said those things, but he twisted around our stories. No one's ever given him permission to repeat their stories, he just uses what he can get. When we confronted him about it, he started saying I and my husband were RCMP informants." Annett claims on his website that he believes Helen and her husband Frank are undercover agents from a division known as "RCMP-E," and that their codenames are "Redman 1 and Redman 2." Annett has also stated on his website that Michel assaulted him in public by running into him with a scooter. No charges have come before a court on this alleged incident.
Mrs Michel spoke about these experiences to this newspaper because she wants other Survivors to be warned of what has happened in the past. "We've been working on human rights and land rights issues for 20 years. He made our credibility go downhill after we started hanging out with Kevin, and we soon found out we weren't the only ones."
Report by Kerry Coast.
Printed in The St'at'imc Runner, February 2008 issue