It seems that Canadians feel it’s an “exaggeration” to use the word genocide when referring to the mass murder of Indigenous peoples. From what I gather, it makes Canadians feel very uncomfortable, even outraged, to hear that their country harms people and denies the humanity of some of its own registered citizens. I wonder how Canadians would feel once they learn that they are both complicit and participatory in the systems in place currently killing Indigenous peoples. As the beneficiaries of resource extraction and land theft, Canadians do not get to say that they aren’t involved in the violent processes by which Canada goes about this exploitation. To be clear, there is no equal ground on stolen land.
Article two of the UN Convention on Genocide defines genocide as, “ … any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Taking into consideration the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their homes, coerced sterilization of Indigenous women, the deliberate government inaction when it comes to contaminated waters in Indigenous communities, widespread police brutality disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW), I’d think it’s obvious that the term genocide applies.
Unfortunately, Canadians are choosing to focus on the terminology of the MMIW report and denouncing the use of the word genocide rather than focusing on the MMIW report’s 200+ calls to action. There is little discussion around the report’s motion to establish a new framework to end violence, confront oppression, and heal nations.
Canadians are not bystanders who simply witness the relationship between Canada and Indigenous nations.There would be no relationship without Canadians. Although it may feel traumatic for Canadians to hear that their country isn’t as innocent as they imagined it, there is no excuse for dismissing the MMIW. Canadians participate in colonial violence by making justifications for it, denying its existence, and by encouraging it through the promotion of harmful stereotypes. By denying violence and any personal role in it, things are allowed to continue as they are, unchallenged, when things are supposed to change. Things have to change. This violence has gone on far too long, and has taken far too much, for it to continue.
The MMIW report presents Canadians with an opportunity to do better. Will they?