MMIWG: Is it Genocide?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suspends regular sittings of parliament until September Image credit: CBC News

By: Laura Steiner

The Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is many things.  It’s a profile in tragic systemic failures on behalf of the police.  It’s a commentary on a lack of resources for women looking to get off drugs, or leave abusive relationships. It’s a light that shines exposing some dark truths that no Canadian wants to face about our government’s treatment of Indigenous people.  But is it a genocide?

The United Nations (UN) defines a 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.  They list five acts: Killing members of a group, Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting  on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or  forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. By this definition, the answer is no.

The U.N Convention genocide says that intent “is the most difficult to determine”.  They associate the crime of genocide with some kind of state-sanctioned or organized plan.    There was incompetence, and failure to be sure.  But do those things make an organized plan to systemically kill a group of people? Conservative, or Liberal our governments haven’t been that smart lately.

Genocide is a powerful word.  On Tuesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau legitimized it by accept the Inquiry’s findings. That could open up a future Canadian government to charges of crimes against humanity, and an investigation by the World Court.  While the government’s treatment of the Indigenous population is certainly a stain for Canada, is this the road we should be on to fix the relationship?

Before accepting it, we should debate it. An admission of genocide is not something a government can come back from.