Update: The upcoming report by the Federal Commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada is scheduled to be released on June 3, 2019 - check back on this site.
Human Rights Org: Treatment of Indigenous People is Genocide
By tS/vf - 18 May 2019
The treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada was reviewed and will henceforth be identified as a genocide, the Winnipeg-based Museum for Human Rights has declared.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has come forward and said that the organization now recognizes the colonial experience in the country, from the time of first contact to present day, as a humanitarian crime.
"I think for many years we didn't think it was the role of a museum to declare this to be a genocide," Louise Waldman, the museum's manager of marketing and communications, said. "And I think now what's happened is we understand it's not just our role, but our responsibility and our commitment as a national institution that's dedicated to human rights education."
However, Frank Chalk, a professor at Montreal Institute of Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, expressed concern that saying the entire colonial experience is genocide may "stretch the genocidal net so far that it will tear and break, and if everything becomes genocide, then nothing is genocide."
In Dec. 2015, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report described Canada’s residential school system as cultural genocide and, in turn, sparked new discussions about what genocide as a whole is, Waldman noted.
"It hasn't been about blasting out public statements. It's been more about starting dialogue and ensuring that we are listening and learning and growing and giving that opportunity to all our visitors, as well."
The 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide defines genocide as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
"I think we recognize as a museum that our lack of clear acknowledgement of the genocide against Indigenous peoples has caused hurt, and we've listened and we are working to do better," Waldman explained because the organization previously labeled the challenges met by Indigenous peoples as cultural genocide rather than general genocide.
The North American country has long been overrun with high instances of Indigenous children ensnare in the welfare system, large numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the over-representation of Indigenous people in correctional facilities as well as high suicide rates in Indigenous communities.
So I was recently reading Indigenous Nationhood by @Pam_Palmater and I noticed that the CMHR never formally recognized the struggle of indigenous peoples as a genocide. Have you changed your position on this? Just to help, here is a definition? I'm really curious... Miigwech.
The new policy was mandated by CEO John Young, who stated that there were initial misperceptions about the museum.
"I think we've been very reflective of not only where we are as a country, but where we intend to go, and have a conversation about genocide and genocidal policies toward Indigenous Peoples in Canada," the museums chief highlighted.
Lawyer and advocate Pam Palmater, chair of Indigenous governance at Ryerson University, said the museum's change in stance is a positive step, but hopes the conversation will be featured more prominently.
"To me, you shouldn't be able to walk two feet into that museum without first seeing an exhibit on genocide."
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"Advancing reconciliation takes a whole-of-government approach involving partners at all levels,” said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development.
A series of concessions have been included in the 2019 budget including various grants set aside for Indigenous Canadians involved in intellectual property systems both domestically and internationally.
Among the initiatives are grants for Indigenous people, a website to facilitate research, and funding for education programs.
A donation of CAD1 million (US$742,200) will be extended to the Canadian Museum Reconciliation Project to assist with the advancement of reconciliation and collaboration with Canadian Indigenous communities.
Over half a million dollars will fund an inspection of the nation’s 2,600 museums’ and cultural institutions’ current national policies and practices to ensure they follow the guidelines set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Over CAD350,500 (US$260,100) will be used to retrain museum employees and offer workshops.
Budget concessions have also been made to allow for the development of an interactive website where the nation will have easy access to records and education tools for future generations.
Minister Bains said, “With these new intellectual property initiatives, we are making Canada's IP system more inclusive and providing Indigenous communities with key tools to protect and reap the full economic benefits of their intellectual property, Indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions."
Vonda Vitale, Canadian Museum Association (CMA) executive director, called the program “ambitious, comprehensive, and inclusive.”
“In our interconnected world, museums have become ever more essential to the preservation of cultural diversity and appreciation,” Vitale said.
The initiative gained substantial support in March during the World Intellectual Property Organizations Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore in Geneva, Switzerland.