The warnings go back decades. The families, friends, and community members of Indigenous women and girls who have been killed or gone missing with no explanations have been calling for police reform on the handling of these horrific cases for years. Now, the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls has been released and calls the violence against First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women and girls a form of genocide.
The findings of the three-year investigation, which complied the testimonies of over 2,000 families, survivors, and experts, were unveiled in an emotional ceremony Monday at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. Hundreds of people, including committee members, commissioners, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were in attendance. The over 1,200-page report outlines in detail more than 230 recommendations on how the judicial system should handle homicides, domestic abuse, and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual) people.
The mishandling of these cases in the past, and disappearances and deaths of thousands of women and girls over decades constitute a “Canadian genocide,” the report, titled Reclaiming Power and Place, found. It also found the Canadian government enabled the murders and vanishings.
The inquiry notes that “while the Canadian genocide targets all Indigenous peoples, Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people are particularly targeted. Statistics consistently show that rates of violence against Métis, Inuit, and First Nations women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are much higher than for non-Indigenous women in Canada.”
The classification of these tragedies as“genocide” may be controversial to some, but the report notes that by definition, the word is fitting. It defines genocide by quoting scholar Raphael Lemkin, who explained that “genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation,” but that it is aimed at the “disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.”
In an interview with Global News, Gilda Morgan, an elder with the Tla’amin Nation on the Sunshine Coast said “genocide” is the perfect word to describe the devastation to her people: “I agree with the strong wording because as an Indigenous woman I am six times more likely to be murdered.”
The chief commissioner of the report, former B.C. judge Marion Buller, was met with cheers and applause, according to CTV News, when she outlined the "persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human- and Indigenous-rights violations and abuses, perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state.” She told hundreds of onlookers: “This is genocide.”
"Despite the National Inquiry’s best efforts to gather all of the truths relating to the missing and murdered, we conclude that no one knows an exact number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada. Thousands of women’s deaths or disappearances have likely gone unrecorded over the decades, and many families likely did not feel ready or safe to share with the National Inquiry before our timelines required us to close registration.”