Breaking News from ITCCS: Key witness to Canadian residential school death dies.
Posted on August 10, 2012 by itccs
Read more at the ITCCS Site
Harry Wilson: 1953-2012
The first eyewitness to go public with his discovery of a dead adolescent at a United Church Indian residential school died yesterday in Vancouver.
Harry Wilson, 59, sustained massive head and brain injuries earlier this year from an undisclosed cause. He lapsed into a coma and never recovered.
In the spring of 1997, Wilson first spoke about tortures he endured as a child at the Alberni Indian residential school at a public forum organized by Kevin Annett and west coast elders. He was subsequently threatened and assaulted by state-funded tribal council officials in Port Alberni for speaking in the media of his discovery of a dead native student at the United Church's Alberni residential school in the summer of 1967.
Nevertheless, Wilson went on to be a star witness at the historic IHRAAM Tribunal of June 1998, and was featured in the award-winning documentary film on Genocide in Canada, Unrepentant.
Harry Wilson had been homeless for many years. In March of 2011, he told Kevin Annett that two men had beaten him severely and threatened to kill him if he spoke at investigative forums of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State.
The Vancouver Coroner's Office refuses to comment on Wilson's death or the head and brain injuries sustained by him.
ITCCS International Communique 9 August 2012
Harry Wilson (left) and Kevin Annett, 1997, Vancouver
A Personal Remembrance
by Kevin D. Annett
I knew Harry for over fifteen years, and rarely have I encountered such heroism and suffering in one man.
Kidnapped by Mounties at age six, sodomized daily by United Church clergy and staff, starved, beaten and drugged, Harry had every reason to die or kill himself at a young age. But there was an iron quality about him that shone through the struggling homeless guy that the world saw. It was such character that caused him to keep speaking out, even after ever increasing beatings and threats.
"I wasn't in the protected group at Alberni (residential school)" Harry told me when we first met, at a public meeting in downtown Vancouver.
"So I got it all the time. I had to hide out at night or they'd get me so I broke out of the place once and I found the body of a dead girl right behind Caldwell Hall. She was from up north. She was about sixteen, all naked and covered in blood. I ran and told Andrews (school Principal). But then he shipped me out to Nanaimo hospital and they put me in a padded cell, stuck needles in me so I wouldn't talk. They kept me there for months, giving me shocks, doing experiments on me"
On February 9, 1998, Harry was about to tell this story to a gathering in Port Alberni when he was approached by two officials of the local state-owned Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council: Charlie Thompson and Ron Hamilton. Both men threatened to kill Harry if he spoke.
In an affidavit Harry swore that same month he states,
"First Ron Hamilton says to me, 'You're going to be real sorry if you talk about that dead girl'. … Charlie Thompson came to me after and said, 'Harry, you've got half a brain and nobody'll miss you if you're found floating face down in the water.' "
Both Hamilton and Thompson were "enforcers" for the white administration while students at the Alberni residential school during the 1960's.
The nightmare never stopped for Harry after that. He was threatened, pushed around and isolated in his community by all the classic black ops methods. Harry's own lawyer, David Patterson, refused to include Harry's statement about the dead girl in his legal statement of claim. When I asked him why, Patterson said,
"I'm an officer of the court and there are certain issues I'm not allowed to raise, like that dead girl".
Censored and ridiculed, Harry was given $150,000 hush money in a deal that he wasn't allowed to discuss. Within two months, all the money was gone: blown through by family, his lawyer and all sorts of "new friends" that vanished once the money went. Barely a year after his settlement, Harry was homeless again, living off what he could pawn or recycle from garbage bins along east hastings street.
That's where I always found him. His eyes would light up and he'd chortle happily whenever I appeared, and we'd embrace and talk about his life over coffee at the Ovaltine. It was always the same story of unrelieved misery, and every time I saw him, Harry looked older, more beaten, and was more saturated with booze. But he never lost his humor, or his honesty and courage.
Just before I was expelled from vancouver Co-op radio in the summer of 2010, Harry came on my program for a final time to recount the Alberni school nightmare, and more recent criminality by the same United Church of Canada.
"They got two rapists working at the First United overnight drop in" Harry described on the air , a few months before the story broke in the corporate media.
"Nobody's safe at the drop in at nights, especially women. The church hired those fuckers knowing they were rapers. Just like at their rez school."
I tried to keep Harry's spirits up whenever we met, but he was nothing if not a realist. He knew his days were numbered.
In March of last year, I came across Harry at a bus stop. His face was bruised and bloodied and he could barely speak. After I cleaned him up and he'd calmed down, he told me that two men had caught him in an alley and beaten him up. They told him that he'd be killed if he got involved with Kevin Annett's new Tribunal.
"You made that mistake once Harry, don't make it twice or we'll finish the job" said one of the men.
Harry had no reason to lie to me, and every reason to run and hide after the beating. But he stayed on the street, maybe out of intertia, but mostly because it was the only world he knew; and being destitute, he had nothing else to do. But like he told me all the time, he never forgave what had been done to him, and nobody was going to stop him from talking about it.
Somebody finally did stop Harry. A close friend of his told me yesterday that Harry was beaten about the head so badly a few months ago that he suffered "bad brain damage". He slipped into a coma and never came out of it.
I was always so happy whenever I saw Harry, still alive, at a bus stop or in Oppenheimer Park, even if he was completely tanked or wired with his buddies. It was a miracle to me that he could endure a lifetime of beatings, rape, torture and drugging and still be there, a living witness to so much of our crap.
I'll remember Harry like that: as one who endures, like the truth itself. I only hope that his example rubs off on us.
Port Alberni Residential School
Died or "being died"
1. To bring to trial those persons and institutions responsible for the exploitation, torture and murder of children, past and present, and
2. To stop these and other criminal actions by church and state.
Headquarters: London, England
Convening Session: Monday, September 12, 2011 in London