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FORSETH – Use of term ‘genocide’ detracts from causes of the violence

CBC NEWS … After more than three years, dozens of community meetings and testimony from well over 2,000 Canadians, the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry delivered its final report to the federal government … “This report is about deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide.”

… the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who were murdered or disappeared across the country in recent decades are victims of a “Canadian genocide,” says the final report of the national inquiry created to probe the ongoing tragedy.

YOU WILL NOT FIND ME arguing that hundreds and hundreds of Indigenous women of all ages were raped, murdered, beaten, and subjected to all kinds of indignities.  That said, I will argue that what happened to these women was NOT ‘genocide’.  And, remarkably, it seems neither does Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In a CTV News story … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that violence against indigenous women and girls is sadly not a relic of Canada’s past, and the justice system has failed them.  But he stopped short of calling the damage genocide – despite being called out to do so – when he spoke after accepting the report

That IS fitting given the very description of several terms of killings and mass murder which follow:

Ethnic Cleansing … the mass expulsion or killing of members of an unwanted ethnic or religious group in a society

Killing fields … a place where a heavy loss of life has occurred, typically as the result of massacre or genocide during a time of warfare or violent civil unrest.

Final Solution … the Nazi policy of exterminating European Jews.

Mass murder … the act of murdering a number of people, typically simultaneously or over a relatively short period of time and in close geographic proximity.

Democide the intentional killing of an unarmed or disarmed person by government agents acting in their authoritative capacity and pursuant to government policy or high command.

The Holocaust … destruction or slaughter on a mass scale.

Mass killing … the killing members of a group without the intention to eliminate the whole group, or killing large numbers of people without a precise definition of group membership. In a mass killing the number of people killed is usually smaller than in genocide.

AND THEN, there is Genocide …  the intentional action to destroy a people (usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial or religious group) in whole or in part. The word “genocide” is a combination of the Greek word for “race, people”) and the Latin word for “act of killing.”

For thousands of years governments, guerilla movements, and humankind have found multiple reasons to murder one another … these are just a few examples:

CAMBODIA … an attempt by Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot to form a Communist peasant farming society resulted in the deaths of 25 percent of the country’s population from starvation, overwork and executions.

SOVIET UNION / RUSSIA … while exact numbers will never be certain, the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union were responsible for no fewer than 15 million deaths.

CHINA … there is general consensus among historians that after Mao Zedong seized power, his policies and political purges directly or indirectly caused the deaths of tens of millions of people.

NORTH KOREA … estimates indicate 100,000 executions … 1.5 million deaths through concentration camps and slave labor … and 500,000 deaths from famine.

ETHIOPIA … Amnesty International estimates that half a million people were killed during the Ethiopian Red Terror of 1977 and 1978.

RWANDA … during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority.

EUROPE (World War 2) … in Nazi Germany, aided by local collaborators in several adjoining countries, murdered 6 million Jews—around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe —between 1941 and 1944.

UKRAINE … genocide of Ukrainians, through artificial starvation by the Soviet regime between 1932 and 1933, saw at least 10 per cent of Ukraine’s population killed.

DARFUR / SUDAN … estimates of genocide on the low side indicate 100,000 people killed, to half a million on the high side.

IRAQ … the genocide of Kurdish people in Iraq saw eight per cent of their population killed between 1986 and 1989.

The list just goes on and on ….  dozens and dozens of countries all around the world … all guilty of the final solution, ethnic cleansing, democide.  It doesn’t matter what it’s called … it all ends up as genocide.

For those innocent Indigenous lives that were taken – flesh and blood human beings just the same as any of you now reading this – their deaths fall on the shoulders of many.

We were indifferent to what was going on around us … many were ignorant in their feelings of superiority … many held long dispensed views of First Nations People … and far too many were indifferent.

Still … what happened to these women was NOT genocide.  It was rape … murder … beating … humiliation … dishonouring … humiliation – and we will never know the terror these women went thorough.

But again – it was NOT genocide.

As the final report from the National Inquiry states … persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

And it also calls for … transformative legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that has devastated Indigenous communities across the country.

The Final Report also spoke about … a surrounding context marked by multigenerational and intergenerational trauma and marginalization in the form of poverty, insecure housing or homelessness and barriers to education, employment, health care and cultural support … and …

 … specific colonial and patriarchal policies that displaced women from their traditional roles in communities and governance and diminished their status in society, leaving them vulnerable to violence.

That last on, I believe, likely became the greatest reason that saw these women end up in situations where they were murdered and/ or went missing.

Using the term genocide, in my opinion, takes away from the causes that brought about their deaths, to which I spoke just a few paragraphs above.

They left behind families bewildered by their disappearance … grief stricken when their murdered and beaten bodies were found … children who would never again see their mothers … and families that would never again see their child again.

We also lost the richness of what their lives, should they have been different, would have contributed to society

What it is … and what it was … was a national tragedy; one which should never again be repeated.

Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident and former member of the Reform Party of Canada and the B.C. Reform Party, and a past and current member of the BC Conservative Party. His blog is My Thoughts on Politics and More.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6879 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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