Sarah J. Miller is the pseudonym of an award-winning syndicated journalist. In her words, “I’m assuming an uncharacteristic anonymity in this case because of threats made against me if I proceeded with an investigative piece about Reverend Annett. Such warnings actually perked my curiosity about the man and the shit storm surrounding him.”
I had been prepared to distrust the quiet, intense man who sat across from me, not only because most people I know expected me to.
Zealots of any variety are sowers of unhappiness, and from most of what I had read about him, Reverend Kevin Annett is a latter day John Brown, seeking the downfall of all of official society in his determined quest for justice for the violated. And frankly, I just don’t like clergy persons, including the defrocked brand, for “once a black robe, always a black robe”, from my experience.
And yet the man before me didn’t match my prejudice, especially when he began to speak. He does so calmly and gently, with a confident logic based on hard and compelling evidence garnered from years of research.
Rumors to the contrary, Kevin Annett is neither crazy, nor a charlatan. He is someone, rather, who bears a shocking truth that most Canadians, understandably, do not want to hear.
My pleasant surprise at the man’s unexpected demeanor and the intelligent clarity of his words made me realize right off the bat that everything I had been told and fearfully warned about Kevin Annett was unfounded: a fact that made me want to learn more.
A second look at my subject reminded me of the Vietnam veterans I had come to know during my fledgling days as a greenhorn reporter: someone bearing the kind of war-weariness and “thousand yard gaze” that says more than words ever can.
Kevin talks like a battlefield veteran, with regular references to fallen buddies and unrelenting attacks. But his aura is not weighted down by any kind of post traumatic reactions that I can see, despite the brutal personal savaging he has been put through over the years. He is not a bitter or a vengeful man, although he has enough cause to be.
My own positive vibe from the quietly graying man with an irrepressible smile made the professional journalist in me play hard ball with him.
“So why do people call you crazy?” I asked him provocatively, nudging my pocket recorder towards him.
“I guess it must seem crazy to take on the government of Canada and its churches”
“Is that what you’re doing?”
“Well, that wasn’t my original plan. Don’t forget, the United Church went after me first”
“That cost you your family” I offered.
His deep brown eyes showed a brush of sadness for the first time, and he nodded.
“Was it worth it?”
“Not for me, or my daughters” he replied. “But for a hell of a lot of other people, it was”
I stared at the documents spread before me, showing how half of the children at Alberta Indian residential schools had died in one school term; and at a Canadian law from 1933 allowing any Indian to be sexually sterilized.
“Why did nobody know about all this?” I asked him, holding up a document.
“They did” he replied laconically, gesturing to a photocopied article from a November 15, 1907 issue of The Ottawa Citizen that described the enormous death rate in the Indian schools.
“But the churches are acknowledging this now …” I said.
“No, they’re not” Kevin replied, his eyes suddenly hard. “They’ve been forced by us to admit that children died, but they claim it wasn’t from deliberate intent. Like, 50,000 deaths were somehow accidental”
“They murdered them, is that your line?”
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