Much is being made of the use of the word “genocide” in the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
We say what has happened to Indigenous women and children in Canada doesn’t rise to the level of genocide, but is further evidence of the fallout from the cruel attempts to assimilate Indigenous people into broader society through the use of residential schools and the like.
Oxford dictionary defines genocide as the “deliberate killing of a very large number of people from a particular ethnic group of nation.”
That brings to mind the approximately six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis during the Second World War. It also brings to mind the estimated 800,000 people, most of the Tutsi ethnic minority, who were slaughtered during a 100-day period in Rwanda in 1994.
Those tragedies easily fit Oxford’s definition of genocide. What has happened to Indigenous women and girls in Canada is different.
Those who were murdered and missing weren’t part of a larger attempt to exterminate their kind. Rather, they were seen as disposable and of less value by the society that emerged from colonialism and its paternalistic attitudes towards Indigenous people.
All that said, the inquiry’s commissioners can use whatever words they want in their report — it’s their report. Unfortunately, that one single word took away attention from the 231 recommendations that came out of the three-year exercise.
They include important suggestion that would have far-reaching impacts, such as creating safe, affordable transit options for remote communities to decrease reliance on hitchhiking, and guaranteeing an annual livable income for all Canadians to get people out of poverty.
Those recommendations are what we should be discussing now, not the definition of a single word and whether or not politicians care to repeat it.