Click here to view original web page at International group of American countries wants to investigate MMIWG ‘genocide’ findings
OTTAWA—The secretary general of an international organization of American countries has expressed “deepest consternation” about evidence of genocide against Indigenous peoples in Canada, and is proposing a special expert panel to examine the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Prime Minister Justin […]
OTTAWA—The secretary general of an international organization of American countries has expressed “deepest consternation” about evidence of genocide against Indigenous peoples in Canada, and is proposing a special expert panel to examine the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government accepts the inquiry’s finding that Canada, through centuries of deliberate government policies and inaction, has committed “colonial genocide” against Indigenous peoples, and that this meets the international definition of the crime set down in the 1948 Genocide Convention.
On Monday, the same day the inquiry released its final report, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States — a political forum of 35 countries in North and South America, including Canada — wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to propose an expert panel to “clarify” the finding of genocide against Indigenous women and girls. The organization held a similar process to examine alleged human rights abuses in Nicaragua in the spring of 2018, resulting in a report to the member countries that was published late last year. In that case, the examination was done under a branch of the organization that aims “to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region.”
“I must communicate my deepest consternation regarding the existence of evidence of genocide against Indigenous women and girls in your country,” wrote Secretary General Luis Almagro in the letter to Freeland, which he shared on social media.
Almagro wrote that, should Canada agree to an international investigation, the organization will work to appoint an expert panel as soon as possible.
“Given that your country has always sided with scrutiny and international co-operation in situations where human rights are violated in different countries, I am expecting to receive a favourable response to this request,” he said.
Freeland’s office would not say Wednesday whether Canada is open to an international examination of the inquiry’s findings. But Adam Austen, Freeland’s press secretary, said in an email to the Star that Canada will respond “soon.”
Following a Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the government is “always in favour of a rules-based approach, internationally” and will consider the request before responding.
“It will be up to Minister Freeland to take the next necessary steps,” she said. “This is difficult for many people, and it is a matter of understanding the past and accepting those findings.”
Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said it’s also important to move on the 231 recommendations from the inquiry commission, which range from police and legal reforms to calls for funding to social services and a constitutional amendment to ensure Indigenous rights are protected. The government has vowed to work with Indigenous groups on an “action plan” to respond to these recommendations, but hasn’t committed to fulfilling specific demands.
“The commission’s findings themselves were quite exhaustive and I think that the work that they put into it was quite exhaustive, and we’re sorting through those meticulously right now,” O’Regan told the Star.
Fannie Lafontaine is the Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Human Rights at the Université de Laval, who helped craft the legal analysis for the inquiry’s genocide finding. She said Canada should welcome international scrutiny of the history and current realities for Indigenous women and girls in this country, but worries the organization’s proposal could lead to another examination of the same ground covered by the national inquiry, as well as other projects like the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
She said she is also concerned people are misinterpreting the inquiry’s finding to be that all acts of violence against Indigenous women and girls are examples of genocide. Instead, she said the inquiry concluded that ongoing government actions, policies and inaction over centuries amounts to “colonial genocide” against Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and that this “genocide” sets the conditions for higher rates of violence, disappearance, and murder among Indigenous women.
“It’s not that it’s a bad idea per se, but I don’t think they grasped what genocide meant in this context,” she said of the organization’s proposal.
“I would probably rather see international monitors and/or judicial oversight of the implementation to the national action plan,” Lafontaine said.
“They may want to do their own legal analysis, but I don’t think it (should be) a fact-finding mission. I think the facts are pretty well documented.”
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga