Chris Selley: Somehow, the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry just got worse

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau literally copped to Canada committing genocide under his watch. And then, somehow, nothing happened

Back in June, the debate over whether Indigenous Canadian women are victims of genocide drowned out many concerns and criticisms that had been levelled against the inquiry that concluded they are. Those came not least from the families of victims, who alleged a lack of empathy compounded by endless staff turnover, a glacial pace of evidence-gathering and a lack of transparency. This week CBC reported the inquiry also made some very basic factual errors.

The final report alleges “Indigenous women and girls now make up almost 25 per cent of homicide victims,” when of course it’s 25 per cent of female homicide victims. In her preface, commissioner Michèle Audette claims “statistics show … Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada.” Statistics Canada pegs it at around 2.7 times more likely.

“We were on the ground, we were with the families,” Audette explained. “Sometimes we were able to see that numbers don’t connect to the reality on the ground.”

This validated widespread concerns that the inquiry was disastrously uninterested in collecting actual data about victims, perpetrators and circumstances, but it gets worse: Corrections made to the report in light of CBC’s inquiries are not annotated, nor have they been included in all versions — including the official one filed with the government.

Some are understandably worried the inquiry’s useful findings might be overshadowed by such blunders. But if anything I think it could be a useful reminder, because the discussion following the report’s release came nowhere near running its course. At one point, amid much waffling, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau literally copped to Canada committing genocide under his watch: “We accept the finding that this was genocide, and we will move forward to end this ongoing national tragedy.”

And then … nothing. We are about to have an election campaign in which a head of government has admitted at the very least to failing to prevent genocide — itself a breach of international law, putting Trudeau’s Canada in the same league as Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia. A lot of perfectly mainstream jurists and commentators said they agreed with this. And now, bupkes.

I suspect a lot of people who claim to support the inquiry’s findings are rolling their eyes at this point. It’s not, you know, GENOCIDE-genocide. Justin Trudeau’s not going to wind up in The Hague, for heaven’s sake.

All I can say is read the report. Its legal analysis concedes “there is little precedent in international law for situations where the state is the perpetrator of genocide through structural violence, such as colonialism,” but it very much implicates Canada in GENOCIDE-genocide, “in breach of (its) international obligations, triggering its responsibility under international law.”

It’s not, you know, GENOCIDE-genocide

Most ridiculous were the folks who ostensibly supported the report’s findings but accused skeptics of getting too hung up on the genocide thing….Just because you’re accusing a person or entity of a novel kind of genocide doesn’t mean you aren’t accusing them of something that needs answering for. It’s a big word for a reason. MORE

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London climate change protesters daub Brazilian embassy blood red

“state-sanctioned human rights abuses and ecocide”

An activist splashes red paint over the embassy's facade during Extinction Rebellion climate change protest in front of Brazilian Embassy in
An activist splashes red paint over the embassy’s facade during Extinction Rebellion climate change protest in front of Brazilian Embassy in London

LONDON (Reuters) – Climate-change protesters threw red paint at the Brazilian embassy in London on Tuesday to demonstrate against damage to the Amazon rainforest and what they described as violence against indigenous tribes living there.

Police arrested six activists from the Extinction Rebellion group after they glued themselves to the embassy windows and climbed onto a glass awning above the entrance.

The protesters had splattered red paint and sprayed red handprints over the facade, along with slogans such as “No More Indigenous Blood” and “For The Wild”.

Extinction Rebellion, which disrupted traffic in central London for several weeks earlier this year, said Tuesday’s protest aimed to challenge the Brazilian government over “state-sanctioned human rights abuses and ecocide”.

Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, a bulwark against global warming thanks to the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it soaks up and recycles into oxygen.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has long been sceptical about environmental concerns. He argues that the Amazon is a resource that belongs to Brazil and should be economically developed. He also criticizes the existence of protected lands.

Critics say his rhetoric has emboldened loggers, ranchers and informal miners, resulting in a dramatic acceleration of deforestation and in violence against the rainforest’s indigenous inhabitants.

Last week, data from Brazil’s own space research agency showed that deforestation on Brazilian territory had jumped around 67 percent in the first seven months of the year. Bolsonaro has rejected the agency’s data and fired its chief. MORE

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The Canadian state seems like an immovable object. But Indigenous women are an unstoppable force.


Tiny House Warriors install solar panels. Photo via Tiny House Warriors’ Facebook page.

It’s Monday in the colonial state; Canada enters its 152nd year.

It’s been barely two weeks since the federal government released Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.The chief commissioner has said that the homicides, disappearances, and violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are the 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.” She named it Canada’s genocide. And yet, amid an admission of genocide, the colonial project continues apace; its existence met with celebration for another year.

Survivors of violence and family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women have put together a deeply researched report with a tangible set of actions. Activists, media, and communities must now insist upon the implementation of the report’s 231 Calls for Justice – supporting survivors, family members, and Indigenous peoples in overcoming the disinterest and dismissal of the Canadian public.

And yet, amid an admission of genocide, the colonial project continues apace; its existence met with celebration for another year.

I have come to realize that ignorance and apathy amongst Canadians should be expected, but not tolerated. Settler colonialism relies on indifference, reinforced by myths that protect the settler state from critical examination. When critical examination is undertaken, like in Reclaiming Power and Place, the true nature of the state is revealed. Canada is a project with the deliberate aim of destroying Indigenous nations in order to assert control over Indigenous lands, waters, and peoples. Poor health outcomes, criminalization, and violence that exist in Indigenous communities are not the symptoms of peoples who have failed to modernize, nor can they be dismissed as the inevitable consequence of competing ways of life.

With this in mind, it becomes clearer why settler governments are willing to include Indigenous women in decision-making in some areas, but not others.

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments have been willing to cede control – financial responsibility and liability – over the design and delivery of services through legislation that does not include a statutory requirement for funding. These services, which include language restoration and child welfare, are crucial components to ending violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. They address multi-generational issues that vary from family to family based on those families’ particular experiences and interactions with structural racism and settler colonialism. Overcoming these issues requires a multi-year effort, if not a lifelong commitment. These programs are costly to administer and critically important to the survival of Indigenous peoples. As a result, communities who assert their jurisdiction in these areas take on massive amounts of liability and financial burden, alleviating the Crown of that responsibility.

What you are not likely to see is policy-making that cedes decision-making and financial control to Indigenous women in areas where it would impact the accumulation of capital from Indigenous lands – like in the decision to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline. (I know you’re thinking about the few chiefs – mostly men – who, without clear community support, suggest their communities may want to share ownership and profit of the project. To that, I say: I said what I said.)

This includes the right to survival, to say no, and to determine for ourselves and our communities the best way to protect waters, lands, and children.

But having Indigenous women at the table is not enough. We have seen how damaging it can be when colonial oppression is internalized and perpetuated, through lateral violence and toxicity,by Indigenous women themselves. Each of us, including Indigenous people, must critically examine our own role in upholding a status quo that tolerates indifference to the basic human dignity of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. We must question what makes our society unwilling to hear the needs and aspirations of Indigenous women, unwilling to do the critical work required to empower us, and what barriers exist to our political mobilization.

Indigenous women have collective and individual rights that include “the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights.” These rights are inherent, affirmed by human rights conventions and declarations like Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This includes the right to survival, to say no, and to determine for ourselves and our communities the best way to protect waters, lands, and children. When it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Kanahus Manuel, a leader with the Tiny House Warriorsand member of the Secwepemc Women Warriors has said, “We’re reclaiming our ancestral village and bringing our traditions back to life. If Trudeau wants to build this pipeline, he will need to empty this village a second time; in doing so, he would make continued colonization and cultural genocide part of his legacy of so-called reconciliation. Trudeau may have agreed to purchase this pipeline to make sure it gets built, but we’re here to make sure that it doesn’t. This pipeline is unfundable and unbuildable. It’s time Trudeau and all potential financial backers of this pipeline realized that we will never allow it to destroy our home.”  MORE

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‘The world should have stopped’: An Indigenous woman responds to Canada’s admission of genocide

Debate should be over, Canada is guilty of genocide


Image: Provice of British Columbia/Flickr

It’s no longer up for debate. Canada is guilty of genocide.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has found that Canada has and continues to engage in “race-based genocide.”

The inquiry called to investigate the circumstances surrounding the murder and disappearance of an estimated 1,200 Indigenous women and girls came to its conclusion after hearing from their family members, survivors of violence and expert witnesses, as well as conducting its own independent research.

This was not an academic exercise nor a political tactic, as some pundits in the mainstream press have suggested. The finding that Canada is guilty of genocide is based firmly on the evidence and law.

Canadians should not be shocked.

This is not the first time an inquiry or commission has come to this conclusion. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Indian residential schools also found Canada guilty of genocide — cultural, physical, and biological.

Canada is at a crossroads. Yes, an admission of genocide will have political and legal consequences, but that is a small price to pay.

False comparisons to the Holocaust

Canada’s political leaders have long professed a commitment to human rights and Indigenous rights at home and on the international stage. Yet the national inquiry found that it is Canada’s very breach of those rights that have led to genocide.

Various prime ministers have called out grave human rights violations and genocides committed by other states — and rightly so.

Unfortunately, the response of many politicians, journalists, and armchair critics to the inquiry’s findings has amounted to denial — and that is precisely how genocide is allowed to continue in plain sight.

Much of the debate among media commentators has focused on false comparisons to the Holocaust. In their minds, if millions did not die within a short time, then it simply cannot be called a genocide.

But in law, the Holocaust is not the standard of what constitutes a genocide.

The Holocaust is one of the worst examples of genocide, but not the only way in a which a systemic, state-sponsored genocide can occur.

Both international law and the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide define genocide as a crime that can occur in a variety of forms, and which may or may not involve the mass killing of a targeted group.

The definition of genocide in Article II of the Convention includes killing members of a national, racial or ethnic group — like Indigenous peoples. The definition also covers other acts: causing serious bodily or mental harm; creating the conditions of life to bring about the destruction of a group; preventing births in a group; and the forced transfer of children from the group.

A state need only commit one of these acts to be guilty of genocide. Sadly, Canada is guilty on all these fronts when it comes to its treatment of Indigenous peoples. MORE

 

Our View: Arguing over a word just another insult to Indigenous people

hearing missing women
Bernie Williams, right, who has been an advocate for women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 30 years, testifies at the final day of hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Richmond, B.C., on April 8, 2018. A much-anticipated report on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is set to be released to the public in June. The four person commission tasked with examining root causes of violence toward Indigenous women and girls announced today it will hold a closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que. on June 3. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issued its final report on June 3 and it was truly devastating.

The report included stories from thousands of family members and survivors of violence, as well as experts and officials who delivered testimony at 24 hearings and statement-gathering events in 2017 and 2018.

The report said systemic racial and gendered human rights violations — still happening today — are the cause of thousands of disappearances, murders and violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ and two-spirited people.

The report pointed to examples of harms suffered at the hands of Canadian authorities, including the failure to protect them from exploitation, trafficking and killers; deaths in police custody; physical, sexual, and mental abuse in state institutions; the removal of children; forced relocations; coerced sterilizations; and the lack of funding for social services.

Marion Buller, the inquiry’s chief commissioner, said the tragedy in Canada 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.”

And then the report said that the thousands of Indigenous women who were murdered and or went missing represent a genocide.

Now, when faced with such overwhelming evidence of a national tragedy, you would think the reaction would be one of horror, but also resolve from Canadians to ensure this madness is stopped in its tracks.

You would, of course, be wrong.

Instead, a few media outlets and some politicians – like Conservative leader Andrew Scheer – decided to obsess about the use of the word “genocide” – arguing that it was incorrect to use this term in connection to what the report outlined.
So, a report details atrocities in our country, but some people felt it was more important to push back and quibble over semantics – distracting people from the truths detailed in the report. The message sent to Indigenous people was that people weren’t listening and didn’t care about their pain. Star newspaper Indigenous columnist Tanya Talaga said it felt like the inquiry’s findings were being “mocked” by pundits in the media. MORE

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Blowback to the word genocide proves the national inquiry report was right

Jingle Dancers perform at the closing ceremony marking the conclusion of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on June 3, 2019. It’s time Canada stopped being so defensive and started having the difficult discussions we need, Tanya Talaga writes.

I should have anticipated the blowback to the final report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls

For decades, news outlets chose not to report on Indigenous issues. Where were the investigative exposes on the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora while children were medically experimented on? Or the special projects on the pedophiles praying on the children of St. Anne’s Indian Residential School or on Ralph Rowe, the flying Anglican priest believed to have sexually abused hundreds of First Nations boys?

Where were the stories on First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, who were picked up off of sidewalks, raped and left for dead?

Tanya TalagaThere are exceptions of course. I [Tanya Talaga] have, since January 2019, been paid to cover Indigenous issues as a columnist for the Star. I’m not alone in the Canadian media landscape. But we are few.

The inquiry did not mince words in calling out the media. The commissioners found that media has not accurately portrayed Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people, too often reinforcing negative stereotypes, perpetuating racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny — perpetuating the notion that Indigenous peoples are “less-than.”

But rather than listen, rather than take this opportunity for sober self-reflection, the media, on cue, proved the commissioners’ point.

Most major Canadian media organizations quickly published pieces dismissing the genocide finding, while mostly ignoring everything else in the 1,200-page report based on the testimonies of some 2,300 families, survivors and experts.

Wouldn’t it be better for those being accused of complicity in a Canadian tragedy to listen and consider rather than rushing to engage in precisely the sort of behaviour the report says is so dangerous?

In any case, surely something is wrong when so many expend so much more energy defending colonialism against the “genocide” allegation than grappling in good faith with the cruel consequences the commissioners chronicle or their 231 recommendations for redressing those consequences.

Maybe it’s no wonder. For the past 150 years this country has taught its children — its future police officers, politicians, doctors and editors — to look away from Canada’s true history, to avert their eyes to the “Indian problem” or to treat it as a problem of Indigenous peoples’ own making. MORE

The national MMIW report’s use of the word genocide sparks an international debate

“I’ve made the decision to no longer write for @globeandmail based on this editorial – written by editors who clearly have not read even the supplementary report on the legal reasons the word “genocide” was used. They are shaping public opinion against Indigenous women like me.” — Alicia Elliott, journalist

Prime Minister Trudeau accepts it, Globe and Mail and Toronto Star editorials reject it, an Indigenous journalist resigns and human rights organizations look to investigate Canada


Chief commissioner Marion Buller, front left to right, and commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Qajaq Robinson and Michele Audette get ready to prepare the final report to give to the government at the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Quebec., on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

On June 3, Canada’s National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women released an extensive and long-awaited final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.The report, which was released to the public and political officials — most notably Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — at an official closing ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Monday, initiated a firestorm of international debate when Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the inquiry shared the commission’s findings in the report.

“The significant 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 peoples from their lands, social structures, and governance; and to eradicate their existence as nations, communities, families, and individuals, is the cause of the disappearances, murders and violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA (Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people … and this is genocide.”

After Buller stated the word genocide, the audience erupted in applause.

“This is genocide”: Full statement on MMIWG report by CTV News

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in the audience and later addressed the crowd consisting of families and victims of missing and murdered Indigenous women: “We have failed you, we will fail you no longer.” MORE

Never forget: Yes, there was a genocide. Why don’t we correct the wrong now?

Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

…Today, Canada has a choice. It can continue to look away and praise itself as one of the best places in the world and quietly put the report on the shelf like it has in the past for all the previous reports (the Royal commission on Aboriginal peoples, and the public commission of inquiry into missing women in B.C. in 2012).

Or, it can decide to be courageous and brave and start decolonizing its institutions starting from stopping the abusive and racial profiling practices used by some local police forces, to overcoming the general apathy and complacency of the RCMP, to repealing the mother of all evil, the Indian Act.

Like any radical change, this decolonization process wouldn’t be easy or popular to adopt. Already, most of the major newspapers in Canada are, since the release of the report, aligning with editorial after editorial and opinion after opinion against the word “genocide” used in the report. Many have been acting offended and choosing to focus on the word genocide, while all the crucial issues discussed in the report have seemed already to be once again forgotten.  SOURCE

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‘The world should have stopped’: An Indigenous woman responds to Canada’s admission of genocide

What does it mean to call Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women a ‘genocide’?

In international relations, words have weight – and some are much heavier than others


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured at the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver on Tuesday, said he accepted the MMIWG inquiry’s conclusion that the massive number of deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women constituted “a genocide.” (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Now, the debate over the unique nature of the crime of genocide has become part of Canada’s political dialogue going into the fall election campaign. In its final report, released this week, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls described those thousands of victims as casualties of a “genocide.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adopted that language as his own, telling an audience in Vancouver that “we accept the findings of the commissioners that it was genocide.”

But despite Trudeau’s careful use of the past tense, the commissioners who drafted that report were talking very explicitly about the present. They wrote that Canada has pursued “a continuous policy, with shifting expressed motives but an ultimately steady intention, to destroy Indigenous peoples physically, biologically, and as social units.”

The report points a finger of blame at “present-day Canadian state conduct,” including what it calls “proactive measures to destroy, assimilate and eliminate Indigenous peoples.”

National Inquiry commissioner Marion Buller defended her commission’s decision to use the genocide label, saying comparisons to other countries are misleading.


Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry Marion Buller addresses a crowd at the closing ceremonies for community hearings in April 2018. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“I think it’s important for everybody, for all Canadians, to know that we often think of genocide as the Holocaust, the killings in Africa or elsewhere. And of course that is genocide, and of course that is tragedy,” she said.

“But the type of genocide we have in Canada is, as my colleague Commissioner Robinson said, death by a million paper cuts for generations.”

“Examinations of the commission and risk of genocide largely and unhelpfully revolve around the numbers killed,” the report says, suggesting that the definition is bad at capturing what it calls “the particular nature of Colonial Genocide.”

The report then says that Canada should be judged not only by its actions, but also by its omissions. Together, it says, they constitute the Canadian government’s “genocidal policy, a ‘manifest pattern of similar conduct’, which reflects an intention to destroy Indigenous peoples.” MORE

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“This [declaration of genocide] is likely to spur commentary in mainstream media about the veracity of that conclusion, but if we were to apply the United Nations definition of genocide, it should be undeniable that the Canadian state has committed genocide against Indigenous peoples.”

And today, the genocide continues,

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The MMIWG final report lands: ‘I hold up a mirror to Canada’

The chief commissioner urged Canadians to learn their ‘true history’, delivering a scathing report monumental in scope and minute in detail


Trudeau holds a copy of the report presented to him by the commissioners of the national inquiry in Gatineau, Que., on June 3, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

It was of course the consciously freighted language that grabbed all the headlines and sparked many of the media questions the day the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report.
The hefty document—as big as a New York City telephone book and the product of nearly three years of work, hearings across the country and considerable controversy and upheaval—called the thousands of cases of dead and disappeared daughters, aunts, mothers, wives and friends “nothing less than the deliberate, often covert campaign of genocide,” adding, “This is not what Canada is supposed to be about; it is not what it purports to stand for.”

“Today, the commissioners and I hold up a mirror to Canada,” Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said. “We reflect back what we have heard and what we have documented.”

She elicited a big cheer from the crowd when she exhorted Indigenous people to “decolonize yourself” by learning the history of their people and the “true history” of Canada. But Buller reflected the tone of the day and of the report itself with her relentlessly fierce message that no one look away or back off on this issue now that the report is printed and bound.

“The murders, the abductions, the human trafficking, the beatings, the rapes, the violence—yes, the genocide—will continue unless all Canadians find the strength, courage and vision to build a new, decolonized relationship with each other based on respect and self-determination,” she said. “Let us walk together. Let us work together. We must do this, together, to achieve our destiny as strong, proud people in this great nation.”

Commissioner Qajaq Robinson—who was raised in Nunavut and speaks fluent Inuktitut but is not Indigenous herself—suggested that many of the people watching and listening to the ceremony might have similar reactions to her own: “Guilt, shame, denial, the urge to say ‘No, no, that’s not what this is. This is not who I am. I didn’t play a part in this. My ancestors didn’t play a part in this. We’re good people.’” But the families and survivors who spoke to the inquiry in 15 community hearings held across the country revealed a collective reality she urged others not to look away from.

“But it’s the truth,” she said. “It’s our truth, it’s my truth, it’s your truth.”

MORE

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