Thousands of Indigenous women and girls who had gone missing or were killed in Canada over decades were victims of a national genocide based on race, identity and gender, says a government report released this week.
The 1,200-page report titled ‘Reclaiming power and place’ blamed colonialism within Canadian society and ideologies and instruments that promote it along with racism and misogyny for rise in violence, deaths, suicides, and disappearances of Indigenous populations.
The genocide went on unchecked because of colonial structures such as the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Inuit, Métis and First Nations rights.
Violence against Indigenous women and children became the norm and Canadian society did nothing to address this.
Even the Canadian legal system failed to hold the state and legal actors accountable for their failure to meet domestic and international human rights and Indigenous rights obligations.
The report called for sweeping judicial and police reforms.
It said investigators and judges must treat Indigenous deaths and disappearances as seriously as similar cases related to other communities. To ensure this, more Indigenous judges, justices of the peace and police should be hired.
If the criminal justice system still fails to deliver, a separate court system for the Indigenous population should be set up.
The four-member panel led by Marion Buller which prepared the report called for “absolute paradigm shift” to save Indigenous people.
Calls for justice are not mere recommendations but legal imperatives, Buller said.
Federal, provincial and local governments should direct resources to eliminate the social, economic and political marginalisation of Indigenous women and girls.
A national action plan should be formulated to address violence against them and ensure them equitable access to basic rights such as employment, housing, education, safety, and health care.
But effective implementation of plans alone cannot save Indigenous women and girls. Citizens should speak up when atrocities are committed against this marginalised section of society.
The report said the Canadian genocide also targeted the 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) people.
The inquiry panel started their work in September 2016. Since then, they had been gathering information from more than 2,380 people and interviewing 468 family members of victims and survivors.