Canada aimed to destroy Indigenous people: The MMIWG inquirys case for genocide – CBC News

Canada aimed to \destroy Indigenous people\: The MMIWG inquiry\s case for genocide - CBC News
Final MMIWG report calls violence against Indigenous women and girls genocide
It was an "inescapable conclusion" that genocide was committed against Canada's Indigenous peoples, said Marion Buller, the chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, during a Monday news conference.

That conclusion has been reverberating across the country since news first surfaced on Friday that the inquiry had determined that thousands of those women and girls were victims of a "Canadian genocide."

The report also focuses on the need for actors in the justice system and in police services to acknowledge that the historical and current relationship with Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people has been largely defined by “colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination, and fundamental cultural and societal differences.”

The final report said Canada, from its pre-colonial past to today, has aimed to "destroy Indigenous peoples."

In 2005, the Native Women’s Association of Canada created a database tracking cases and produced a 2010 report documenting 582 missing and murdered Indigenous women. In 2014, the RCMP released a national overview and pegged the number of cases between 1980 and 2012 at nearly 1,200. Other unverified estimates are far higher.

"Canada has displayed a continuous policy, with shifting expressed motives but an ultimately steady intention, to destroy Indigenous peoples physically, biologically, and as social units, thereby fulfilling the required specific intent element," said a supplemental report.

The inquiry based this partly on the UN's 1948 definition of genocide. According to the UN, genocide is any of five acts committed with the "intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." The acts are:

"The Canadian state was founded on colonial genocidal policies that are inextricably linked to Canada's contemporary relationship with Indigenous peoples," said the supplementary report.

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"Modern Canadian policies perpetuate these colonial legacies, and have resulted in clear patterns of violence and marginalization of Indigenous peoples, particularly women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual)."

“To this day, the safety, security, and dignity of Indigenous mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends are routinely threatened,” he said. “Time and again, we have heard of their disappearance, violence, or even death being labelled low priority or ignored.”

The inquiry argues that the genocide continues through the over-apprehension of children in the child welfare system, the lack of police protection for Indigenous women and the continued existence of the Indian Act, first enacted in 1876.

The prime minister received the inquiry report containing more than 200 recommendations in Gatineau, Que. morning from the four commissioners after they performed a traditional ceremony, including coating its pages with medicine and wrapping it in a blanket.

"In addition to the premeditated killing of Indigenous peoples, there existed egregious colonial policies that caused serious bodily and mental harm to Indigenous peoples and deliberately inflicted conditions of life on Indigenous communities calculated to bring about their physical destruction," said the supplementary report.

The report cites as examples scalping bounties offered in Nova Scotia in the 1750s to reward the murder of the Mi'kmaq, the elimination of the Beothuk and policies in the 1870s to deny food to Indigenous people on the Prairies to clear the way for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The report then moves to the 1880s and the beginning of government-sanctioned residential schools where Indigenous children were forcibly taken to face "starvation, deliberate infection of diseases, beating, torture, rape, solitary confinement, assaults and ill-treatment."

These are directed at "all governments" to develop "national action plans" to address inequities Indigenous women and girls experience in the definition and delivery of Indigenous and treaty rights across Canada. It calls upon public and private institutions in areas of justice, health, child welfare, transportation, natural resources to ensure the safety of Indigenous women and girls, while also including their perspectives in delivery of their services.

"These historical policies are appalling in their systematic destruction of Indigenous communities, but what is more appalling is that many of these policies continue today under a different guise," it says.

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The inquiry quotes genocide scholar Andrew Woolford, a sociology professor at the University of Manitoba, who argues that Canadian scholars "have not given colonial genocide in Canada enough attention."

In an interview with CBC News, Woolford said that too often the experience of those targeted by genocide are deleted from timeframes used to determine what constitutes a genocide.

Many list the five "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, but the bottom line is: genocide never looks the same. The end result — death, destruction, and suffering — is the same.

"Particularly when we are talking about settler colonialism, which stretches across hundreds of years, and it has all these shifts and changes in how it's enacted," he said.

This is because the report is incomplete. Given an original two-year mandate, the inquiry was beset with problems (staff departures, conflicts with families, and government meddling) as difficult and complex as the issue itself. When the commissioners asked for a two-year extension from the federal government, they received six months.

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Woolford said he sees genocide like the inquiry did, as "not just as a matter of physical destruction, but in a sociological sense, as the destruction of groups."

Indigenous lives are still dictated by Canada (see: Indian Act), children are still removed from our communities (see: child welfare and youth jails), and no Indigenous government is free from the control of the minister of Indigenous affairs (see: chiefs and councils).

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When Canadian officials began discussing the "Indian problem," it's clear that Indigenous people were seen as barrier to overcome, he said.

The inquiry states Indigenous women and girls are "12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada, and 16 times more likely than Caucasian women. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they are 19 times more likely than Caucasian women."

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"Indigenous people were represented as an obstacle to Canadian nation-building, as an obstacle to land possession.

"However, the information and testimonies collected by the national inquiry provide serious reasons to believe that Canada’s past and current policies, omissions, and actions towards First Nations peoples, Inuit and Métis amount to genocide."

"We see that a variety of different techniques put in place like residential schools, famine and forced removals."

Tamara Starblanket, author of Suffer the Little Children, Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State, said the inquiry undercut its arguments by using a term like "Canadian genocide".

WHO HAD THE ADVANTAGE? In many ways, the Allies and Germans were well-matched. The Allies had far superior air and sea power; the Germans had troops and tanks available for quick reinforcement. The Germans had better tanks and anti-tank guns while the Allies had more of both. German troops, in many cases, were better trained and superbly led by hardened veterans. The Germans, however, were hampered by shortages of supplies, especially fuel while the Allies had plenty of everything. German generals also faced ham-handed interference by Adolf Hitler; Allied generals were able to unfold their plans without harassment from above.

"The deployment of the language in this matter domesticates the international legal question of genocide," said Starblanket, a Nehiyaw isKwew (Cree) from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six territory in Saskatchewan.

"There is no such thing as Canadian genocide because genocide itself is a crime in international law," she said.

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Starblanket, whose book concludes Canada is guilty of genocide, said Ottawa shielded itself from that crime by only adopting two of the five acts included in the UN convention.

Under the Criminal Code, genocide includes only "killing members of the group or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction."

Smith's 21-year-old sister, Claudette Priscilla June Osborne-Tyo, vanished from Winnipeg in 2008. The family had received a voice message in which Osborne-Tyo explained she was with a man she didn't know at a motel and was afraid. Police were quickly called, but the case wasn't investigated for 10 days, Smith said.

No charge of genocide can proceed without the blessing of the attorney general, and the inquiry does not make any recommendations to amend the Criminal Code.

"Shame, guilt, denial, that urge to say, 'No, no, no, that's not what this is,' " she said. "But it's the truth. It's our truth. It's my truth, it's your truth. The families, survivors, and Indigenous peoples across this country have brought this truth to light."

"The inquiry is a domestic inquiry and it has no mandate to deal with international legal questions. Their mandate is limited to Canadian law, which is the Criminal Code and Canada reframed genocide in its criminal code to avoid getting caught up in international law," she said.

FEATURES OF JUNO: Eight-kilometre strip of summer resorts and villages scattered over flat land behind low beaches and a sea wall. Many Canadians in first wave race to cover of sea wall. D Company of Queen's Own Rifles loses half its strength in initial sprint from water to seawall about 180 metres away.

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him [email protected]

Melanie Mark, a First Nations woman elected to the British Columbia legislature, sat with her eight-year-old daughter during the report's release. Mark, feeling a sense of loss, couldn't sleep the night before because she knew the report would reopen wounds for families across the country.

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The chief commissioner of the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) told survivors and families on Monday they have started to rewrite Canadian history.

Women and families in Vancouver shared stories of their loved ones during a gathering for the report's release. Lorelei Williams's aunt, Belinda Williams, has been missing for more than 40 years, and the DNA of her cousin, Tanya Holyk, was found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm.

The tragedy, former B.C. judge Marion Buller said, is a direct result of a “persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human and Indigenous-rights violations and abuses, perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state, designed to displace Indigenous people from their lands, social structures and governments, and to eradicate their existence as nations, communities, families and individuals.”

“This,” she said to a growing chorus of cheers and applause in the grand hall of the Canadian Museum of History across the Ottawa River from Parliament, “is genocide.”

Trudeau said the government already has committed to major reforms for Indigenous peoples, including new cash injections for on-reserve housing, a plan to end all long-term boil-water advisories, a fundamental overhaul of the child and family services regime, legislation for an Indigenous languages strategy and a push to foster more self-government. The last federal budget included billions of dollars in new spending for Indigenous files.

Buller said she and her three fellow commissioners are holding up a mirror to the country, reflecting what they heard from more than 2,300 people over two years of cross-country public hearings and work to gather evidence.

“Your truths cannot be unheard,” Buller told hundreds of people gathered in the museum to mark the release of the inquiry report, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan.

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A complete change is required to dismantle colonialism in Canadian society, said Buller, who is Cree from the Mistawasis First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Despite calls from some in the crowd for him to say the word "genocide," Trudeau did not use that word to describe the violence faced by Indigenous women and girls. After the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report on the Indian residential school system in 2015, Trudeau called on the Conservative government of the day to take action address that instance of "cultural genocide."

“This paradigm-shift must come from all levels of government and public institutions,” she said.

"As a nation, we face a crisis: regardless of which number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is cited, the number is too great. The continuing murders, disappearances and violence prove that this crisis has escalated to a national emergency that calls for timely and effective responses. This is not what Canada is supposed to be about; it is not what it purports to stand for," Buller said.

“Ideologies and instruments of colonialism, racism and misogyny, both past and present, must be rejected.”

It calls for further examination of the 'Gladue principles' in Canadian courts — a legal term that stipulates an offender's Indigenous ancestry should be considered in the sentencing process. Inquiry commissioner Qajaq Robinson said Monday that many families told her at the hearings that, in some cases, Gladue is seen by many offenders as a "get out of jail free card."

The report contains more than 200 recommendations to multiple levels of government. It calls the violence against First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls a form of “genocide” and a crisis “centuries in the making.”

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“These abuses and violations have resulted in the denial of safety, security, and human dignity,” the report says.

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Trudeau stopped short of calling the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls a genocide – despite being called upon to do so – when he spoke after accepting the report of the national public inquiry he called on the issue.

Beyond facilitating access to restraining orders (or "protection orders," as they're often known in Canada), the inquiry is calling on the government to offer guaranteed access to financial support, legislated paid leave and disability benefits and "appropriate trauma care" to Indigenous victims of crime or other traumatic events.

Instead, Trudeau said violence against Indigenous women and girls is “not a relic of Canada’s past” and the justice system has failed them.

WHO HAD THE ADVANTAGE? In many ways, the Allies and Germans were well-matched. The Allies had far superior air and sea power; the Germans had troops and tanks available for quick reinforcement. The Germans had better tanks and anti-tank guns while the Allies had more of both. German troops, in many cases, were better trained and superbly led by hardened veterans. The Germans, however, were hampered by shortages of supplies, especially fuel while the Allies had plenty of everything. German generals also faced ham-handed interference by Adolf Hitler; Allied generals were able to unfold their plans without harassment from above.

“To this day, the safety, security, and dignity of Indigenous mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends are routinely threatened,” he said. “Time and again, we have heard of their disappearance, violence, or even death being labelled low priority or ignored.”

WHY NORMANDY? The decision was largely dictated by technology and supply problems. Beaches had to be within range of British-based fighter planes and easy striking distance of a port, which would be needed to unload supplies. The Nazis believed the Allies would attack at the Pas de Calais, which was the closest point to Great Britain. Knowing this, the Allies devised an elaborate deception to keep the Nazis focused on this area while actually preparing for Normandy, which had lighter defences, suitable beaches and the requisite proximity to ports.

Trudeau said his government will conduct a thorough review of the report and will develop and implement a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.

After Monday’s ceremony, Buller said the commission does not need to hear the word “genocide” out of Trudeau’s mouth; it heard the truth from families and survivors.

THE WAR TO JUNE 6: Allied fortunes had rebounded by 1944 after the massive German conquests of 1940-41. British and American armies had driven the Germans from North Africa and Sicily, forced Italy to surrender and were moving up the Italian boot while Allied bombers were pounding German cities and towns day and night. In the East, the Soviets were on the march to Berlin. And in the Pacific, the Americans were making headway against the Japanese.

It also has calls for action in areas including justice and health, including that health-service providers develop programs that could help young people recognize the signs of being targeted for exploitation.

Smith's 21-year-old sister, Claudette Priscilla June Osborne-Tyo, vanished from Winnipeg in 2008. The family had received a voice message in which Osborne-Tyo explained she was with a man she didn't know at a motel and was afraid. Police were quickly called, but the case wasn't investigated for 10 days, Smith said.

The report, the culmination of a three-year effort often beset by controversy, delays and personnel problems, documents what Buller calls “important truths” – including that Canadian laws and institutions are themselves to blame for violating the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“I hope that knowing these truths will contribute to a better understanding of the real lives of Indigenous people and the violations of their human and Indigenous rights when they were targeted for violence,” Buller writes in the report.

FEATURES OF JUNO: Eight-kilometre strip of summer resorts and villages scattered over flat land behind low beaches and a sea wall. Many Canadians in first wave race to cover of sea wall. D Company of Queen's Own Rifles loses half its strength in initial sprint from water to seawall about 180 metres away.

“Skeptics will be fearful and will complain that the financial cost of rebuilding is too great, that enough has been done, that enough money has been spent,” Buller writes.

Melanie Mark, a First Nations woman elected to the British Columbia legislature, sat with her eight-year-old daughter during the report's release. Mark, feeling a sense of loss, couldn't sleep the night before because she knew the report would reopen wounds for families across the country.

“To them I say, we as a nation cannot afford not to rebuild. Otherwise, we all knowingly enable the continuation of genocide in our own country.”

The steps necessary to “end and redress this genocide” must be no less monumental than the combination of systems and actions that have been used to “maintain colonial violence for generations,” the commissioners say.

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The recommendations – framed in the report as “calls for justice” – include developing an effective response to human trafficking cases and sexual exploitation and violence, including in the sex industry. They are not optional, but constitute legal imperatives, the report says.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also at the inquiry’s final ceremony, saying violence against Indigenous women and girls is sadly not a relic of Canada’s past, and the justice system has failed them.

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“We have heard of their human rights being consistently and systemically violated,” Trudeau said. “It is shameful. It is absolutely unacceptable. And it must end.”

Additional calls include the need to establish a national Indigenous and human rights ombudsperson and a national Indigenous and human rights tribunal.

It also recommends the development of a national action plan to ensure equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety, and health care, as well as long-term funding for education programs and awareness campaigns related to violence prevention.

The report also strongly focuses on the need for actors in the justice system and in police services to acknowledge that the historical and current relationship with Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people has been largely defined by “colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination, and fundamental cultural and societal differences.”

“We further call upon all police services and justice system actors to acknowledge that, going forward, this relationship must be based on respect and understanding, and must be led by, and in partnerships with, Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual) people.”

Missing and murdered Indigenous women are believed to number in the thousands in Canada, but the report says that despite the commission’s best efforts to quantify the extent of the tragedy, “no one knows an exact number.”

In 2005, the Native Women’s Association of Canada created a database that tracked cases and produced a 2010 report documenting 582 missing and murdered Indigenous women. In 2014, the RCMP released a national overview and pegged the number of cases between 1980 and 2012 at nearly 1,200. Other unverified estimates are far higher.

Rita Blind, right, sheds tears while embracing Viola Thomas after listening to Bernie Williams testify at the final day of hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Richmond, B.C., on Sunday April 8, 2018.

Responding to the conclusions is the responsibility not only of federal and provincial governments and law enforcement agencies, but all Canadians in both the immediate and long-term, the report says.

“Individuals, institutions, and governments can all play a part … We encourage you, as you read these recommendations, to understand and, most importantly, to act on yours.”