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Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller speaks during a press conference in Ottawa on Jan. 20.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller is speaking out against articles that have been published online that question the validity of findings from technological searches for graves at former residential schools.

Mr. Miller, who first vocalized his dismay on Twitter on Thursday, said the pieces amount to a “denialism and distortion that has coloured the discourse” on residential schools in Canada. He has not cited specific individuals who wrote the articles, which have been appearing in small, online publications.

“It’s not really my job to attack or indict any particular author,” he told The Globe and Mail on Friday. “I think Canadians are smart enough to draw their own conclusions.”

Mr. Miller said that the articles amount to “concerted” efforts to obfuscate or deny the experience of Indigenous children who were forced to attend the residential schools and the “horrors” that occurred there.

The pieces are also being shared on social media by people who want to deny this aspect of Canadian history, he said, adding this results in a “toxic mix” that goes beyond a pattern of ignorance and ventures into the realm of “deliberate denial” that creates a “very insidious narrative.”

Residential schools, which operated for more than 120 years in Canada, were funded by the government and run by churches. Emotional, physical and sexual abuse were rampant behind their walls.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report after six years of work that said the schools amounted to “cultural genocide.” The commission also said the experiences of survivors were hidden for most of Canada’s history until they had the courage to bring them to light in several thousand court cases that led to the largest class-action lawsuit in Canada’s history.

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Williams Lake First Nation identifies 93 potential burial sites at former residential school

The TRC also documented missing children and unmarked burial sites in its findings. The commission said many students who attended residential school never returned, that their parents were often not told they became sick or died, and they were buried away from their families in “long-neglected graves.” It also said no one counted how many died or recorded where they were buried.

On his Twitter account, Mr. Miller noted there has been a “ghoulish” demand to see corpses at former residential schools. He called this not only highly distasteful but also retraumatizing for survivors and their families.

“It is disgusting,” he said on Friday, adding it must be up to communities to determine whether to exhume and perform more intrusive forensic activities.

The minister also said that questioning or denying history won’t change it, but it will further amplify the pain felt by Indigenous communities across Canada.

Last year, several First Nations announced they had located unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools.

On Tuesday, Williams Lake First Nation in British Columbia announced the discovery of 93 potential graves at the site of a former residential school in B.C.’s Central Interior. Archaeologist Whitney Spearing said a number of scientific techniques were used to scour a 14-hectare area, including ground-penetrating radar – technology that detected more than 200 unmarked graves near Kamloops last spring.

Mr. Miller said “certainly more findings” will be made in the future.

“There is more truth to come. I think Canada needs to prepare for it as best as it can.”

With a report from Mike Hager in Vancouver

The number for the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419. British Columbia has a First Nations and Indigenous Crisis Line offered through the KUU-US Crisis Line Society, toll-free at 1-800-588-8717.

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