Wow, we did a news brief last issue in which Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said residential schools weren’t really genocide. Duncan instead felt “the history of residential schools tells of an education policy gone wrong.”
This was done during an announcement that a stained-glass artwork in honour of residential school survivors would be installed on Parliament Hill to make matters even more of an insult.
Obviously, like most of Canada, Duncan hasn’t really been educated on the past government’s history and what genocide really means. So step-by-step let’s look at what according to the international meaning of genocide is and how it applies to Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal Peoples.
Though you only have to satisfy one of the requirements, Canada has covered them all.
The first provision is killing members of a specific group. For instance, the scalping laws that encouraged settlers to kill and scalp Indians for a monetary reward were part of Nova Scotia’s past. It applies to the deliberate contaminating of Aboriginal children with infectious diseases in residential schools, which led to their deaths. Include this with deliberate abuse, torture, starvation and denial of medical care for residential school children that resulted in almost 40% dying and it’s a no-brainer.
The second provision concerns causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group. A prime example is the torture and abuse inflicted on children in residential schools. It includes sexual abuse, rape, sodomy, solitary confinement, denial of food and medical care, punishment for speaking one’s language and more. Parents experienced mental harm too when their children were forcibly removed from them. The loss of language, culture, traditions, practices, way of life, beliefs and customs plays a part in so many social problems.
The third part is to deliberately inflict on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. Housing crises come to mind as well as problems with potable water. Often bands were removed from productive land to barren or swampy areas. If any Aboriginal left their assigned territory they were disenfranchised giving up claim to the group. If a woman married outside the group, she lost all her rights and status.
Another part of genocide was to prevent births within the group. Doctors sterilized Aboriginal women without their knowledge or consent in Canada
Then there’s forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The infamous 1960s scoop took Aboriginal children from their people and had them adopted by non-Aboriginal Canadians. Today, there is an alarming number of children removed from their families. It’s even higher than all the past actions combined.
I hope this educates Minister Duncan and others on the difference between an educational policy gone wrong and the Geneva Convention definition of genocide and how it applies to Canada’s Aboriginal population. And, yes, an apology would be appreciated if you plan to continue as a Minister of Indian Affairs who will be respected by Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.