You’re either a believer or a heretic.
Kind praise, fair criticism, deranged damnation for the Year of The Graves.
I don’t know if what’s happening in the wake of my Year of The Graves investigation is the storm before the calm or the other way around. Maybe what’s happening is just a harbinger of what’s to come. Maybe not. It has escalated quickly, shall we say.
In any case I have no way of knowing what will happen next. As I was saying in yesterday’s newsletter, these are crazy times. And let me tell you, it’s been crazy. The reaction to the piece has been quite loud and it’s coming from all over the place.
A key point I hope people picked up on in yesterday’s newsletter was the bit about how much of what we used to call the western world is in the throes of a “crisis of epistemology,” which is a fancy way of describing the disorienting weirdness of living at a time when belief is conflated with knowledge. Someday, last summer’s residential-schools uproar in Canada is going to have to be a clinical case study in the phenomenon.
A quick digression: An affectionate and heartfelt welcome to this newsletter’s new subscribers, especially the paying customers. Forgive me if I haven’t sent you a personal note, which us what I’ve tried to do, but life’s been a bit nuts the past couple of days.
Now, picking up on how I closed off yesterday’s newsletter (It’s not just that facts don't seem to matter anymore, it's that it doesn't seem to matter that the facts don't matter anymore), a lot of the reaction to Year of The Graves confirms the proposition. You’re either a believer, or a heretic. And holy cow, am I ever a heretic. To some people, anyway.
Curiously, the reaction from Indigenous people that I’ve noticed has been quite measured, thoughtful, and supportive. Even some otherwise “militant” Indigenous intellectuals, including some with whom I’ve had perfectly respectful public disagreements, have come to my defence.
I should thank Russ Diabo, a Mohawk policy analyst and activist who may be remembered by most subscribers as a prominent voice in the “Idle No More” activism of a few years ago. Diabo’s been around. He stood with his fellow Kahnawake Mohawks and stared down Canadian soldiers and the Surete du Quebec during that horrible crisis in 1990.
Diabo’s main criticism was that Year of the Graves was too narrowly focused, and that’s a fair point. But he also understood that I was writing almost excusively about white people, and mostly about journalism. On one point of correction he proposed, either we’re both wrong or we’re both right.
Year of The Graves starts out this way: This is how it all began, a year ago this week: ‘Horrible History’: Mass Grave of Indigenous Children Reported in Canada. On May 28, 2021, that’s how the New York Times headlined the first of a summer-long series of gruesome “discoveries” that precipitated a descent into paroxysms of shame, guilt and rage that swept across the country.
That is indeed how the craziness began, took aim, and took off. But Russ Diabo said, aha, yes, but that wasn’t the first story. And that’s true.
In my last newsletter I reported that the first account of Chief Casimir’s statement appears to have been that report in Kamloops This Week (and on my point in the last newsletter about the impoverishment of reporting capacity in Canada’s journalism mainstream, KTW came into full flower with the closure of the Kamloops Daily News, which shut its doors after a half a century or so in 1984). I’m now reliably advised by the redoubtable James Peters, assistant news director of CFJC Kamloops, that the scoop belongs to CFJC Today, and not KTW.
The craziness did not begin at CFJC, however, so I was not wrong about that. It began with the New York Times. There was nothing crazy about the CFJC report, although I did point out a small error to James. In the CFJC account, "The band confirmed" the graves. Properly, it should have been "said it confirmed" the burials, or some such construction (and as we’ve seen, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc archeologist later walked back the assertion). James took it like a man.
“Everybody makes mistakes” is the way the second section of Year of The Graves begins.
Here’s one such mistake: When I was a boy reporter I once very nearly convicted a man in print on the charge of “driving with undue care and attention,” when of course the charge was “driving without due care and attention.” An editor saved me. Here’s another: In a complicated aboriginal fishing-rights showdown, I once named a Stl'atl'imx man as having been acquitted on a Fisheries Act charge of fishing without a licence. He instructed his lawyer to call and tell me he did not mind my mistake at all, but that he’d been convicted, although he’d “acquitted himself well” on the witness stand.
Anyway, now that I’ve humiliated myself I am going to boast a bit about some of the more pleasant responses to Year of the Graves.
Wesley Yang, contributing editor at Esquire, columnist with Tablet, and author of The Souls of Yellow Folk, calls it an “absolutely mind bending story that most Americans didn’t notice but that dominated Canadian news media completely for months.” Jonathan Kay, the author, Quillette editor, polymath, disc-golf superstar and scourge of the “woke” bourgeoisie, says it’s the “best (and bravest) article I've read in any Canadian newspaper all year.”
Jonathan Manthorpe, the author and legendary “dean” of Canadian war reporting and foreign correspondence generally: “A fine piece of reporting by Terry Glavin, the finest on this topic for several years.” Then there was Ottawa eminence Paul Wells, whose departure from Macleans earlier this year was the hardest blow sustained by that magazine in a long, long time. In recommending the newsletter you’re now reading, to which Paul is a “founding” subscriber, Wells says: “Terry Glavin is a Canadian institution, fearless, often angry, sometimes hilarious. He covers the world's interactions with Canada, he's usually cussing someone out, and if you think you can win an argument with him, good luck to you.”
Everybody should subscribe to Paul’s newsletter. It’s right here. And if you don’t subscribe to mine, here you go:
For a “mainstream” Canadian journalist to be too closely associated with me right now might be bit dangerous, owing to the bosses responsible for all the shoddy journalism I catalogue in Year of the Graves. For that reason I was quite touched by the response from the CBC’s Natasha Fatah, whose integrity and professionalism are unparalleled in the corporation. She posted about Year of The Graves on Twitter, which is to say, quite publicly: “It’s long, and worth the read. Lots of research and thoughtful insight.” And later: “Terry is very kind. He's also super smart and brave and fair. Read his latest piece.”
I blushed. I also concede that the journalists coming to my defence is probably at least in part a kind of harm-reduction strategy, in anticipation of the predicament I have put myself in: I’ll never work in this town again. The National Post assures me they’ve got my back, which is not what a lot of received wisdom might be able to explain. The Post is a “conservative” newspaper. I’m not sure I’ve ever written a conservative sentence in my working life, but the Post has always been good to me. So has the Ottawa Citzen, which shares me with the Post.
Then there are the senior journalists at top-drawer news organizations who have come to me privately. Here’s one: “We in this business have become a bunch of wankers. . . much of the industry decided it knew what was right and wrong, and chose its orthodoxy. Orthodoxies allow no room for dissent.”
One last bit on working in this town again. Over the past several weeks, the bloodletting at Macleans has not meant only the loss of Wells, but editor-in-chief Alison Uncles has gone, Marie-Danielle Smith is gone, Jason Markusoff is gone, and most recently, deputy editor Colin Campbell is gone. Last I looked, I’m still on the masthead as a contributing editor. Macleans has been a mainstay for me in recent years. I don’t even know whether I’m still a contributing editor, and I’m not even sure who to ask, or what “contributing editor” means anymore. I’ll leave it at that.
Anyway, on the fallout from Year of The Graves, the rage monkeys so far all appear to be white people, perhaps especially a certain prominent professor of noticably pale complexion whose denunciations I’ll get to below the paywall. Also for paying subscribers: What’s up with the spread in today’s New York Post that Year of The Graves has been linked to? What’s the deal with those heterodox historians and contrarians at the Dorchester Review and the work they’ve been doing on residential schools?
Free version of the newsletter ends here.