Report of National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered
Indigenous Women and Girls

An Urgent Call for Action

Gathering in Vancouver February 14, 2019, at the beginning of this year's Memorial March honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls said the evidence it gathered led it to conclude that missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were the victims of a Canadian genocide.

The Introduction to the report said: "This genocide has been empowered by colonial structures evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools and breaches of human and Indigenous rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death and suicide in Indigenous populations."  In the section on Findings, the report said, "Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people continue to experience social and economic marginalization and exclusion as a direct result of colonialism and of racist and sexist government policies. This marginalization and exclusion is the objective of the colonial policies of the Canadian state. Colonial policies violate the social, economic, and political rights of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, and jeopardize their rights to human security and, in turn, safety. These colonial policies are tools of genocide."

The inquiry cites contemporary scholarship on genocide to support its finding. It published a supplementary report posted on its website on the legal definition of genocide and its application to Canada.

Not a few media, pundits and politicians have contested this finding. Their response is disturbing on many levels, but none more so than the anxiety it causes because it seeks to divert the discourse into a racist morass which blames the people for their plight. Some media coverage of the release of the National Inquiry's final report highlights the Liberal government's failure to address the historical crimes committed by the Canadian state against the Indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, the response of the Trudeau government is also informed by the ongoing colonial relations and decision-making process it imposes on the Indigenous peoples to this day. As its first violation of principle in the relationship with the Indigenous peoples, Canada refuses to give up the prerogative powers usurped by the Crown and establish nation-to-nation relations. It also refuses to provide redress for all the crimes committed against the people and put in place the conditions required for the Indigenous peoples to exercise their right to be.

Thus, the Trudeau government continues to use its rhetoric and takes cosmetic measures which may or may not alleviate the problems but do, in fact, maintain the colonial relations and structures which are the tools of genocide. This is because the narrow private multinational interests governments at this time serve demand that Indigenous title over use of land and resources be extinguished.

As for Conservatives, the record of the Harper government and the "open for business" approach adopted in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere shows the business approach they espouse. Anything to do with rights is seen as "bad for business" to be denied altogether and negated through deal-making behind everyone's backs. Bernard Valcourt, who was Aboriginal Affairs Minister from 2013 until the defeat of the Harper government in the fall of 2015, does not even admit that Canada's actions against the Indigenous peoples constitute genocide. He responded to the finding of genocide by the National Inquiry by saying it was "propagandist."

Experience with other parties which form the cartel party system shows that there is no way to hold them to account either as concerns in whose name they will govern. Establishing nation-to-nation relations with the Indigenous peoples and providing the wrongs committed against them with redress is a matter of humanizing the natural and social environments as an expression of people's empowerment. It is the historic necessity facing Canadians and all of humanity today.

The aim of media coverage is to divert attention from this historic necessity. But while media are busy diverting the issue by debating whether the definition of "genocide" is appropriate in the circumstances, Indigenous peoples' demands for immediate redress by the government that uphold treaty and hereditary rights expose how past reports and commissions of inquiry and promises of action have failed to eliminate the colonial structures that are the source of the problems. These important facts are clearly brought out in the Inquiry's report.

This report is the result of the persistence of the Indigenous peoples to affirm their right to be against centuries-long attempts to manipulate, divert and finally negate their rights, as well as against the direct assault of open negation. It is also the result of the support of the Canadian people and provides Canadians with an opportunity to discuss these matters, take stock of the situation today and find a way forward. Indigenous peoples have not only shown  resilience and "patience" throughout the recent history of their affirmation as well as throughout history but have developed a particular aversion to empty words, which is very inspiring and at the heart of the situation right now.

In this regard, a positive feature of the National Inquiry is the extent to which it enabled the expression of the voices of the victims of Canada's colonial, racist, misogynist "justice" system. Very striking also are the calls for justice which are said to be "legal imperatives." It is the voices of the people which must prevail when it comes to defining 1) what constitutes justice and 2) what is meant by a "legal imperative." Here is where it must be the modern definitions as determined by the people which prevail, not those imposed by the colonial legacy where the definitions used by what are called the liberal democratic institutions serve to deprive the people of what belongs to them by right.

A matter of concern to the polity has become how to intervene in the upcoming federal election in a manner that favours the Indigenous peoples along with the interests of working Canadians. It presents Canadians with a perplexing problem precisely because what are called the democratic institutions do not represent them but rather the Crown and the colonial relations it continues to uphold. Take for example the problem of deciding which, if any, of the cartel parties is a better choice when it comes to righting historical wrongs committed against the Indigenous peoples. The people are presented with choices which divide the polity in a manner that does not resolve any problem in their favour. There are those who defend and seek to perfect the defunct liberal democratic institutions for which the conditions no longer exist and those, like Trump and others of his kind in Canada and abroad, whose actions leave little doubt that their aim is the outright destruction of these institutions at the expense of the people. Neither is an option. The peoples must continue to lay the claims on society which they must, as the Indigenous peoples have so valiantly done to the extent they were able through the National Inquiry, and by doing so, the way forward to build the kind of democratic institutions which are so much needed and so much lacking today will continue to emerge.

Using their speech and other forms of action to lay the claims that they must is something the people can count on. The people can count on themselves and this is the way forward today.

With Our Deepest Respects

(Photos: TML, M. Horel, J. Stayshyn, Leveller, I. Wurmann)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 21 - June 8, 2019

Article Link:
Report of National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered : An Urgent Call for Action - Pauline Easton


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