There can be no double standards when discussing genocide

The Canadian government perpetuates ignorance at the expense of Indigenous peoples

Collin believes our government's double-standards set a dangerous precendent
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Contrary to what the government would have you believe, genocide is happening in Canada.

The Canadian government’s recent decision to label the Chinese government’s actions against its Uyghur Muslim population as genocidal followed concerns from Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole, who voiced concern over China hosting the upcoming 2022 Olympic games.

Genocide was defined by the United Nations in 1948 following the Holocaust. It involves the intent to destroy, either completely or in part, an entire group of people, based on ethnic, racial, or religious membership. Genocidal acts include killing members of a selected group, putting them in conditions not conducive to life, imposing measures aimed at preventing birth, and transferring children from a specified group to another.

The Chinese government’s actions are disturbing and should be condemned as genocidal. However, the response by our leaders to a national inquiry’s findings of an ongoing genocide here in Canada against Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people has been disturbingly avoidant.

A final report on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls labels the Canadian state’s actions as genocidal. The report identifies how colonial structures, such as the Indian Act, residential schools, and the Sixties Scoop, have all increased the mortality rates for Indigenous women and girls across the country.

The effects of these colonial structures persist in our present society, evident by the fact that the Indian Act still stands as legitimate legislation here in Canada. Given that Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people face high levels of violence and a legacy of child separation, the remains of an attempted genocide are still hurting people today.

Politicians have had mixed reactions to this report. Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer rejected the label of genocide altogether—he described the ongoing violence against Indigenous women and girls as “its own thing.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially hesitated to apply the term genocide when addressing the media but retroactively applied it following public criticism from the commissioner of the inquiry.

Despite leading the charge to label China’s actions as genocidal, current Conservative leader Erin O’Toole made comments in December 2020 that demonstrated an ignorant misunderstanding of how residential schools fueled an attempted genocide, claiming they were designed to provide Indigenous people with an education.

This hypocrisy is rooted in idealist lies. Canadians are quick to celebrate their country for being multicultural, especially when compared to the United States. Conservatives are happy to push this agenda while ignoring hate crimes happening in our country. This superiority complex for how our country treats its minorities is perpetuating ignorance.

The Trudeau government is cognizant of this hypocrisy, demonstrated by how he and his entire cabinet abstained from voting on the Conservative motion to label China’s actions as genocidal. Trudeau knew better than to do that; he would be the pot calling the kettle black over how a government treats its minority populations in their country. He’s spent close to $100 million fighting the claims of Indigenous people in court, many of them from survivors of the residential school system.

The genocide in Canada isn’t history, it’s reality.

The legacy of residential schools, being the forceful removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities, continues under the guise of foster care where Indigenous children are grossly overrepresented. Indigenous women are frequent victims of racially-charged violence, with the death of Barbara Kentner and Robert Pickton’s murders being two examples.  The Indian Act is still on the books and is overseen by Marc Miller, a white settler. No one is innocent when our tax dollars are funding an ongoing genocide.

Our government’s coercive tendencies and the resulting violence are the continuation of a white supremacist agenda that was started by John A. Macdonald. Our leaders consistently fail everyone by allowing this to persist. By criticizing foreign states for their treatment of minority groups without adequately addressing the ongoing crimes against Indigenous peoples, they demonstrate willful neglect and a disturbing lack of compassion toward a local genocide. 

Individual Canadians should not follow the example set by political leaders. We must recognize our country’s failure to protect and seek justice for Indigenous peoples. Their failures have and will continue to cost many Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people their lives.

It is important to acknowledge the genocide happening in China—it’s even more important to stop the genocide happening on Canadian soil. 

 

Collin Chepeka is completing a PhD in Philosophy at Queen's. 

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