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article imageOp-Ed: Canada debates 'genocide' — Or is it 'systematic mass killings'

By Karen Graham     Jun 6, 2019 in Politics
A $92 million national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada was released last week, concluding those who were murdered or disappeared across the country in recent decades are victims of a "Canadian genocide."
CBC News obtained the report and verified by sources. The report concludes that a genocide driven by the disproportionate level of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls occurred in Canada through "state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies."
The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin in his 1944 book "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe," during the Second World War, and even today, it conjures up images of the Holocaust - the mass extermination of a whole people.
The thing is, while the word may have been new, most people in 1943 realized it was just a word that described something that had been going on for generations. And while Lemkin's generation hoped "the final solution" would never happen again, this was not to be.
Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of Nazi Germany's genocide of European Jews  one million...
Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of Nazi Germany's genocide of European Jews, one million of whom were killed at the camp between 1940 to 1945
JANEK SKARZYNSKI, AFP
The Political Instability Task Force is a U.S. government-sponsored research project established to build a database on major domestic political conflicts leading to state failures. The group estimated that, between 1956 and 2016, a total of forty-three genocides took place, causing the death of about 50 million people.
These include Cambodians, Rwandan Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, and Iraqi Yazidis who have all suffered systematic campaigns of mass killing. In Myanmar, a campaign aimed at driving the Muslim Rohingya people out of the mostly Buddhist nation has reached proportions that "constitute genocide," reports CBC News Canada.
Myanmar has rejected accusations that its military committed atrocities in the crackdown last year t...
Myanmar has rejected accusations that its military committed atrocities in the crackdown last year that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh
Adib Chowdhury, AFP/File
The debate begins
On Monday, the 1,200-page report was unveiled with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and victims' families on hand at a ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History, against a backdrop of totems and aboriginal artifacts. According to the report, it is estimated that almost 1,200 indigenous women and girls went missing or were killed in Canada between 1980 and 2012, out of a community of 1.6 million people.
Entitled "Reclaiming Power and Place," the report concludes that through "state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies," indigenous women and girls were 12 times more likely to experience violence and seven times more likely to be killed than other women in Canada.
As for who was doing the killings, the report blamed the violence on indigenous and non-indigenous family members and partners, casual acquaintances and serial killers. With this one statement, most people will quickly point out that this means it is not genocide that caused all these deaths because it is not 'state sanctioned."
But the report goes on, also citing the "endemic poverty, racism, sexism, and other social ills as well as lasting trauma and loss of culture from family separations, and land dispossession traced back to failed attempts by early colonizers to force indigenous people to integrate."
"Despite their different circumstances and backgrounds, all of the missing and murdered are connected by economic, social and political marginalization, racism, and misogyny woven into the fabric of Canadian society," said chief commissioner Marion Buller, reports The Star.
"The hard truth is that we live in a country whose laws and institutions perpetuate violations of fundamental rights, amounting to genocide against indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people," she said -- using an acronym for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual.
Whether you agree or not that what has happened to indigenous women and girls is genocide, one thing is certain, the word has become part of Canada's political dialogue going into the fall election campaign.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally adopted that language as his own, telling an audience in Vancouver that "we accept the findings of the commissioners that it was genocide." Trudeau was criticized Monday for not using the word in his address.
In a photo published on January 17  1891  by the Northwestern Photo Co  we see the burial of the dea...
In a photo published on January 17, 1891, by the Northwestern Photo Co, we see the burial of the dead after the massacre of Wounded Knee. U.S. Soldiers putting Indians in common grave; some corpses are frozen in different positions. South Dakota.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-44458
Call it what it really is - Genocide
Personally, I was glad to hear that Trudeau finally said the distasteful word, and hopefully, this means that Canada is owning up to the systemic racism and double standards that have been part of the government.
There is all this talk about Canada having a charter and believing in the rights of all humans. But I must say that Canada is not alone in what it has done to its indigenous people. The United States actually did attempt to find a "final solution" to its "Indian" problem.
During the American Indian Wars, the United States Army carried out a number of massacres and forced relocations of Indigenous peoples, acts that some scholars say constitute genocide. The Great Plains of what is now the United States was home to millions of indigenous peoples, and they were systematically killed or moved to satisfy a growing need for more land for white people.
Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! ... I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians. ... Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice. — Col. John Milton Chivington, U.S. Army
Chivington, a Methodist preacher, gained infamy for leading a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia during the massacre at Sand Creek in November 1864. An estimated 70–163 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho – about two-thirds of whom were women, children, and infants – were killed and mutilated by his troops. Chivington and his men took scalps and other body parts as battle trophies, including human fetuses and male and female genitalia.
Sadly, even today, the U.S. government still maintains a double-standard regarding indigenous people and the rest of the population. Canada is just waking up to the fact that it has the same problem.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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