Dead reckoning: Canadas national cemetery is bringing truth about residential schools to light

In June 2008, the day before then prime minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons to deliver an apology to survivors of Canada's residential school system, Cindy Blackstock knelt beside a simple gravestone in a peaceful corner of Ottawa's Beechwood Cemetery.

There lay Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, who, in a 1907 report to his bosses at the Department of Indian Affairs, warned of atrocious health conditions at residential schools in Western Canada, where the mortality rate among the Indigenous children was shockingly high, largely due to tuberculosis.

What's more, Bryce suspected the church-run schools were failing to disclose the true extent of the tragedy. Indian Affairs ignored his warnings, and in 1921, Bryce was forced into retirement. But he didn't sit idle. The following year, Bryce published a version of the report himself, with the unmistakably censorious title The Story of a National Crime. He died a decade later.

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