Genocide is a crime that belongs at the helm of international law, not in domestic law. The National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) invokes the language of a “Canadian” genocide. This suggests that Canada has recognized that such a crime has taken place according to its laws, and even suggests a tentative step toward justice. Unfortunately, a domestic inquiry into what is fundamentally an international crime is no more than a smokescreen. The reality is that there is no such thing as a “Canadian” genocide.
“An inquiry or commission mandated by the Canadian State can never be truly independent.”
There is no mistake that the Canadian State is culpable for the crime of genocide, and, indeed it violates customary international laws of genocide with respect to its residential schools and child welfare systems. It is important to understand the implications of how we talk about genocide, and the Canadian state’s mandate to discuss a crime itself has perpetrated.
The legal research and case established in my book Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State demonstrates that Canada is culpable for genocide and, as a perpetrator, should not appoint investigative bodies such as commissions and inquiries to examine its conduct.
Watch: The report on Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls is here. Article continues below.
It is important to emphasize that an inquiry or commission mandated by the Canadian State can never be truly independent, even if there are individual Indigenous people chairing it. The government creates the mandate through its order in council and sets the terms of reference. By implication, it manufactures consent of the inquiry process for our Indigenous Nations when the government appoints indigenous people to these domestic commissions. This is not the only problem. The Inquiry’s scope has no mandate to examine genocide in international law, where the crime of genocide actually has legal recognition — and where Canada has thus far dodged recrimination for its acts of genocide.
How? Canada vehemently rejected the idea of “cultural genocide” — the deliberate destruction of the cultural identity of a people or nation — in the drafting of the United Nations Genocide Convention (UNGC), and by the implementation of the crime into its Criminal Code in 1970 (currently found under Hate Propaganda). It was under an obligation to implement the international crime of genocide into its domestic law, and to be transparent during the drafting process that it intended to implement the current version in s. 318. This distinction is important, as the Criminal Code’s narrow definition of the crime omits critical acts of genocide, including causing serious bodily and mental harm to members of the group; preventing births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
It is no coincidence that these are the very acts that the government was and continues to be actively engaged in, while the lands of the Original Nations continue to be colonized by the oppressor state. The government — for over 100 years and counting — forcibly transferred (and continues to transfer) our children into residential schools and child welfare systems and is responsible for the collective and widespread serious bodily and mental destruction that has affected several generations of Indigenous Nations.
Canada implied a reservation in its Criminal Code. It is not above the UNGC and its responsibility as a signatory. The obligation to not commit genocide has achieved the status of jus cogens, and has become a fundamental principle of international law. No country can simply choose to override it. In its 1951 Advisory Opinion on Genocide, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that states did not have the authority to exercise dominion over tenets of the genocide convention, as doing so could violate the UNGC’s very purpose. Put plainly, this means that the UNGC overrules Canada’s domestic law, given that it engages in acts of genocide.
Canada violated its responsibilities to the UNGC by pretending to respect the rule of international law while actively engaging in the acts that it ripped out of the convention. By virtue of Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on Treaties, Canada was under an obligation to be transparent and remain in good faith when drafting the treaty on genocide. It failed.
“Canada should be held accountable for its crimes against our Original Nations on Great Turtle Island.”
It must be established, then, that Canada is a rogue state from customary international law, and the issue of genocide should be investigated by the proper international bodies with the mandate to examine this crime.
It has been suggested that the Organization of American States (OAS) should investigate Canada, but this is yet another smokescreen — the OAS is a regional agency of the United Nations that deals with human rights, and similarly does not have the mandate to examine genocide. Additionally, a human rights framework is ineffective in addressing genocide, because it is a crime against “national, ethnical, racial or religious groups” — collective human groups, such as our Indigenous Nations — and human rights address individual rights.
Discussing genocide through a “Canadian” lens is smoke and mirrors. It makes people believe something is being done, when there is not. It takes the serious concern of genocide and continues to thwart international recrimination. It is necessary to protect the integrity of the crime under international law and Indigenous Peoples as “national identities.”
All Indigenous Peoples have suffered from oppressive government domination and dehumanization. Canada should be held accountable for its crimes against our Original Nations on Great Turtle Island. Our right to self determination on our lands is trampled on by the colonizer state. Our children continue to be forcibly removed into child welfare systems.
The genocide has not ended, and we continue to suffer from suicides, addictions, traumatized parenting patterns and many other devastations caused by acts of genocide against the innocent. Anything less than the truth is a lie.
This is something to think about and consider seriously; otherwise, nothing will change.
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