On August 9th, 2010, Annett took a phone call on his long-running radio show, “Hidden from History.” The caller wanted to discuss rumours of police complicity in the murders committed by Robert Pickton. “I have specific evidence of what you’re talking about,” Annett replied. “There’s a man, Les Guerin, he’s a maintenance worker down at the Musqueam Reserve, and he gave me documents about five years ago which showed that, as far back as 1989, Dave Pickton [Robert Pickton’s brother] was bringing bags out to the Musqueam Indian Reserve. And Les Guerin and another guy went in and dug up this stuff. They had it analyzed at Simon Fraser University and, sure enough, there was human remains mixed with pig bones.” He went on to explain that, though the evidence was taken to the RCMP, they never investigated.
After his show, Annett stepped from the booth and was handed a letter by Vancouver Co-op Radio staffer Daniel van Tijn, signed by all four of the station’s staff, telling him that he would be banned from the premises while an investigation was undertaken into events nearly three weeks prior. According to the staffers, they had video from a security camera showing Annett and an unidentified woman in the station’s broadcast studio during the wee hours of July 20th, eating, drinking, and engaging in “sexual activity.” The woman was also said to have smoked what appeared to be crack cocaine. Eventually, the account went, a guard who had been watching all this on a security monitor intervened, and the visitors left at 4:22 a.m.
The station says all this was contained in the letter handed to Annett. Annett says the letter referred only to “activities that compromised station policy.” It wasn’t until two months later, he insists, that he learned exactly what might be on the video.
Which is when the story really gets strange.
“The whole thing is ridiculous because I have a solid alibi, I was sleeping at somebody else’s house that night and I have a letter from her confirming that. But this was at the tail end of a number of things that have happened, because when I was in Europe last April, after I got back, a number of the native people on the street were referring to conversations they claim I had with them during April, which couldn’t have happened because I was over in Europe. And there were suggestions like that which indicated that there was somebody impersonating me.
“Which wasn’t the first time this has happened. After our tribunal in 1998, one of our head native judges, a guy called Royce White Calf, claims that someone was impersonating him in the downtown eastside, to gather information and that. So I mean, it isn’t kind of far-fetched to suggest this.”
Well, maybe. When I ask Annett what he’d say to those who might think otherwise, he tells me they should “read more about the history of what they call ‘blackops,’ or the activities of the RCMP or the FBI. There was a program that’s still in place, actually, in America called COINTELPRO which the FBI set up in the 1960s . . . . one of the techniques they used is called ‘badjacketing.’ There’s a good book about this written by Ward Churchill.” I had a look at Churchill’s book, Agents of Repression, which refers mostly to the use of rumour-mongering and manufactured evidence to discredit radicals, rather than, say, body doubles. But then again, many unusual things happen on the downtown eastside.
Annett says that in October he ran into an acquaintance who told him that a certain woman was “flashing a lot of money around and was claiming that she made it after doing some ‘play-acting.’ And that kind of struck me as odd, so I asked him more about it, and he said, ‘Yeah, she said she was down at the radio station one night and she got payment for doing something there.’” Annett later issued a statement in which he recounted tracking down “a sex trade worker, whom I’ll call ‘Candy,’” who gave him a notarized affidavit describing “how she was approached by men she recognized as undercover Mounties and offered $200 to engage in sex with an unknown man made up to impersonate me . . . . ‘Candy’ states that a white male let her and her accomplice into the station around midnight, where she smoked drugs and had ‘mild’ sex with him for nearly four hours, in front of closed circuit TV cameras in the central studio. Unexplainably, Portland Hotel security did not intervene until almost 4 am. She says the impersonator looked like me but had a heavy accent, and was told that no-one would interfere with them for hours, and that she would not get into trouble.
“The station staff subsequently used this video to ban me from Co-op radio, without ever allowing me to view the video or confront my accusers. Clearly, if I was allowed to view it, I would instantly recognize ‘Candy’ and the frame up would be obvious.”
I phoned Leela Chinniah, program co-ordinator for Co-op Radio, who declined to be interviewed for this article. She did say, though, before hanging up on me when I persisted in asking questions anyway (on the principle that journalistic organizations ought to be willing to talk to journalists), that Annett had been given the opportunity to view the video. He denies it.
Eventually, the station’s “investigation” resulted in Annett’s program being taken off the air and his being permanently banned from the premises. He says the real reason is that guests on “Hidden from History” had been implicating the RCMP in the murders at Robert Pickton’s pig farm. “Between July and August on a number of shows we were speaking on the air, including with an eyewitness who was out at the Pickton farm, who described seeing RCMP officers taking women out there. This one woman believed that she knows the identity of one of the serial killers, him being a retired Mountie. We were talking about all of that, and about the apparent complicity of the police in concealing that.
“In fact, only 10 days after I was banned, the Vancouver Sun had an article about how the Vancouver police admitted that they knew about the Picktons for two years and did nothing to investigate. And they’ve never explained very well why they did that – why they refused to investigate.”
A media liaison for the RCMP’s “E” Division in Vancouver called the accusations “pretty crazy” and said someone would get back to me. No one did. An e-mail to the Vancouver Police went unanswered.
I could probably get closer to the truth behind these conflicting stories. I could ask to speak to the friend at whose home Annett says he was sleeping on July 20th. I could try to track down “Candy.” I could talk to the maintenance worker who says he took evidence of Pickton’s crimes to the RCMP, and place another call to “E” Division, and pursue the Vancouver Police for a response, too. But I’m not sure any of that really matters.
We can be pretty certain the RCMP and Vancouver Police would deny the claims of Annett and his colleagues, just as the United Church continues to vociferously reject many of his other charges (although not the fact of Indian residential school abuses). And whatever happened in the Vancouver Co-op Radio studio last summer is finally just a sideshow – one that has more to do with the dissension currently roiling that station than the lives, past and present, of Canada’s aboriginal people.
I expect they could care less about where Kevin Annett was that night. What they do care about is the way that they, or their parents and grandparents, were systematically abused in residential schools, whether by being forcibly separated from their family and culture, or by being neglected, beaten, raped, or killed. They care, they continue to tell us, about the fact that the majority of women who have disappeared from Vancouver’s downtown eastside, and along northern BC’s sinister Highway of Tears, have been native, and that that may account for law enforcement’s otherwise unaccountable languor in investigating their whereabouts.
And those on the front lines tell us little has changed: “An increasing number of women who are forced to live and work in conditions of extreme poverty and marginalization continue to be murdered or have gone missing,” says Carol Martin, a victim services worker at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.
By continuing to draw attention to all this, however clamorously – indeed, because of the holy racket he makes, in his calm, relentless way – Kevin Annett has extended his ministry well beyond anything he could have imagined when he was in theology school, debating whether or not Jesus was a revolutionary. “As important as it has been that the deaths and crimes are finally being acknowledged,” he writes in Unrepentant, “nowhere in all the growing rhetoric and mainstream coverage of the residential schools, nor in any government or church release, or in the subsequent ‘apology’ by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, do the words ‘blame’, ‘murder’, ‘trial’, ‘churches’ or ‘genocide’ ever occur . . . . No ‘M’ word: it is not in our lexicon. It never happened. We have experienced the greatest crime in our history, yet one officially devoid of criminals.”
But not without its own chief prosecutor.
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