This article was first published on the 31st May by APTN National News Canada. It has been republished with permission here.
Persistent and deadly violence against Indigenous women and girls is a form of genocide, concludes the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
The word genocide is contained throughout the 116-page executive summary of the final report sent to APTN News Friday.
The final report entitled Reclaiming Power And Place is scheduled to be made public Monday in Gatineau, Que., but parts of it have been leaked to media outlets, including APTN.
Read the executive summary here: Reclaiming Power and Place
The inquiry declined to comment on the leaks, as did federal politicians, who are expected to be on hand with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the closing ceremony.
However, Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, agrees with the inquiry’s conclusion.
“(He) has said many times that the treatment of First Nations in Canada is consistent with the definition of genocide based on the many assaults on First Nations people and cultures,” a spokesman for Bellegarde said Friday.
“The violence and homicide against Indigenous women and girls is part of this pattern and governments need to work urgently with Indigenous people to stop it.”
The four government-appointed commissioners who helmed the inquiry say in the summary they agreed on the concept of genocide early on in their work, which began in September 2016.
They say they use it in their report to build on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“The truths shared in these National Inquiry hearings tell the story – or, more accurately, thousands of stories – of acts of genocide against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people,” they write.
“This violence amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, which especially targets women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
“This genocide has been empowered by colonial structures, evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Inuit, Métis and First Nations rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations.”
Definition of genocide
They say they rely on this definition of genocide: “…a co-ordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”
And, they note, Canada officially recognizes five genocides: the Holocaust, the Holodomor genocide, the Armenian genocide in 1915, the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995.
This indicates they may ask the government to recognize a sixth genocide on Monday.
The summary blames “settler colonialist structures” and “intergenerational effects of genocide” for perpetuating and encouraging the ongoing violence.
“As many witnesses expressed, this country is at war, and Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are under siege,” it says, noting the high crime rate against this group.
“Perpetrators of violence include Indigenous and non-Indigenous family members and partners, casual acquaintances, and serial killers.”
However, the inquiry says it was unable to learn how many Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people “have been lost to the Canadian genocide to date.”
The commissioners agree: “Thousands of women’s deaths or disappearances have likely gone unrecorded over the decades, and many families likely did not feel ready or safe to share with the National Inquiry before our timelines required us to close registration.
“Without a doubt there are many more.”
The summary says more than 2,380 people participated in the inquiry. And, to a person, it says their words told the pain of violence, racism and oppression.
“Colonial violence, as well as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, has become embedded in everyday life – whether this is through interpersonal forms of violence, through institutions like the health care system and the justice system, or in the laws, policies and structures of Canadian society,” it says.
“The result has been that many Indigenous people have grown up normalized to violence, while Canadian society shows an appalling apathy to addressing the issue. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls finds that this amounts to genocide.”
The final report is 1,200 pages.
By Kathleen Martens