There have been many studies on the issue of whether or not it is
genocide and I think the salient point comes down to interpretation and
identity in some ways. For instance, when I asked if you were “canadian”
you responded “yes”. This has tremendous impacts on the trajectory of
questioning and interpretation, your bias, you will bring to the seeking
When applying reason to the question of genocide in canada, indeed
north america, and whether or not it is occurring against indigenous
peoples here I use the backdrop of the UN definition of the crime of
genocide ( http://www.preventgenocide.org/genocide/officialtext-printerfriendly.htm ) and use it to evaluate the actions of the canadian state and its citizens. Article II of the convention reads thusly:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated
to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The mental component is that there must be “intent to destroy in
whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.”
Canada has long and often described its intentions to destroy us in
whole and in part. Over the last 3 decades, the “official” stance has
not been so blatant, the direction and focus and actions have been
entirely unchanged since the “killing the indian in the child” days. In
fact it has become more complex and effective.
One way the efficacy has increased and has proven to be a
legitimizing foundation of assimilation and genocide tactics, depending
on interpretation and identity, is the action of possessing us all and
literally enfranchising us as “canadians” and “allowing” us to vote in
federal elections in 1951. Raphael Lemkin, the one who coined the phrase
“genocide” back in 1944, introduced the word like this in his book
“Axis Rule in Occupied Europe” ( http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007050 ):
“By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic
group. This new word, coined by the author to denote an old practice in
its modern development, is made from the ancient Greek word genos (race,
tribe) and the Latin cide (killing)…. Generally speaking, genocide does
not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when
accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is
intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions
aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of
national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.
Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the
actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their
individual capacity, but as members of the national group” (80). ” -end
He later added, directly after Indigenous peoples were “granted” the
right to vote I might add, that the very act of imposing national
identity upon people is in itself an act of genocide and should be added
to the UN Convention. It is consistent with his statement here:
“Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of
the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern
of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the
oppressed population which is allowed to remain or upon the territory
alone, after removal of the population and the colonization by the
oppressor’s own nationals.”
and here in terms of the Ukrainian genocide which is applicable:
“Less well known was Lemkin’s view on crimes against humanity
perpetrated by the Soviet Union. In 1953, in a speech given in New York
City, he described the “destruction of the Ukrainian nation” as the
“classic example of Soviet genocide,” going on to point out that “the
Ukrainian is not and never has been a Russian. His culture, his
temperament, his language, his religion, are all different… to eliminate
(Ukrainian) nationalism… the Ukrainian peasantry was sacrificed…a
famine was necessary for the Soviet and so they got one to order… if the
Soviet program succeeds completely, if the intelligentsia, the priest,
and the peasant can be eliminated [then] Ukraine will be as dead as if
every Ukrainian were killed, for it will have lost that part of it which
has kept and developed its culture, its beliefs, its common ideas,
which have guided it and given it a soul, which, in short, made it a
nation… This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of
genocide, of the destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture
and a nation.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael_Lemkin )
But let’s go to the Articles themselves for analysis.
Article A – Killing members of the group.
Canada’s police forces routinely kill Indigenous peoples and so does
it’s citizenry. eg. missing and murdered Indigenous women, apprehended
children being killed while “in care”, missing and murdered Indigenous
men (in some areas at twice the rate of missing and murdered Indigenous
women), indigenous peoples dying in police cells, “starlight tours”,
Article B – Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
Canada’s police forces and citizenry routinely on a widespread scale
beat, taunt, ridicule, oppress, incarcerate, rape, mutilate and much
more. Some of this even makes the news. eg. Marlene Bird, me and many
people I know personally, Social Service agencies and workers who are
racist and have the authority of the state to act on that racism to tear
families apart, etc. etc.
Article C – Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
Confining our own agency through the Indian Act and supplanting and
confining and defining our political, economic, social, legal, physical,
territorial and spiritual practices so that they coincide with what is
“acceptable” to them through the enforcement of their laws with the use
of deadly force. eg. Gustafsen Lake, Oka, Burnt Church, Ipperwash, etc.
Article D – Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
Canada and its citizenry have routinely forced women and men to be sterilized up to and including the 1990′s.
Article E – Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
There are more children in the “care” of the canadian state and it’s
citizens today than there was during the height of the residential
school era. This doesn’t include the number of children who are
incarcerated in youth correction facilities. And the number is growing.
So that’s a bit about that. And the historical record is much much
worse. Scalp bounties, target practice on villages and boats and canoes
from naval vessels of the canadian navy. I mean, it is truly horrendous
what has been done in the past and the effects it has had on the
intergenerational survivors of those tactics which were brutal and less
refined than what tactics are being used today.
I think the most fundamental and profound evidence of genocide
however, is the belief you have that you are “canadian”. How did you
come to be that? What processes and systems are responsible for you
becoming a citizen of canada? A state which has categorically and
systemically administered genocide against us for a very long time and
has apologized but has not changed their focus, have not returned our
lands, have not allowed us our freedom over our lives or our children?
In fact has done and is still doing everything it can to stop us from
I encourage you to evaluate “canadian” and see if it fits into what
you know about your peoples. What you know about yourself. I encourage
this because the product of successful genocide, the final outcome of it
is not piles of bodies of dead people, although that is true in some
cases. The successful outcome and product of genocide against Indigenous
peoples in canada, is canadian citizens who were Indigenous peoples.
About the author:
I am Gisbutwaada. Killer whale. I am Gitenda. People of the
Wiers. I am of the House of Gamiyaam. I have been given the name
Ki’laas, Beautiful Voice. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who
are giants. We must not forget that.