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