Trudeau’s recognition of genocide can have serious consequences

Trudeau’s recognition of genocide can have serious consequences
Trudeau’s recognition of genocide can have serious consequences

In the wake of the discovery of anonymous graves on the grounds of a former residential school for Indigenous children, Trudeau reiterated this week that he accepts the conclusion of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, reporting a genocide.

To truly heal these wounds, we must first recognize the truth, not only about residential schools, but also the past and present injustices that Indigenous peoples face., he said Thursday.

For its part, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published a report in 2015, after years of study of these church-run and federally sponsored residential schools, which operated in Canada for more than 120 years.

The report explained that the physical genocide is the massacre of members of a targeted group, while the cultural genocide is the destruction of structures and practices that allow the group to continue to live as a group.

According to a professor of law at the University of Montreal, Bruno Gélinas-Faucher, if a court judged Canada in this case, it should assess whether these acts constitute genocide under international law and whether the country is responsible for them.

A court could say, under current rules of international law, that the state has accepted responsibility under international law for the crime of genocide, he explains. This is not an easy task.

The discovery of the remains of 215 children in an anonymous burial place in Kamloops has raised the question of whether Canada faces new legal consequences for widespread abuse and death at residential schools.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, can examine cases referred by the United Nations Security Council or by the state itself. It can also look into situations in which the court prosecutor opens an investigation.

A group of Calgary lawyers have formally asked the international court to appoint an extraordinary prosecutor to investigate the Canadian government and the Vatican after the recent discovery in Kamloops.

However, the court must examine whether a case meets certain criteria before launching an investigation, reports Professor Gélinas-Faucher.

The court only prosecutes the perpetrators of the most heinous and serious crimes. He will not prosecute low-ranking officials, he adds. The court is only going after big fish.

Like Germany?

David MacDonald, a political science professor at the University of Guelph, points out that states rarely admit to mass murder.

For example, if Germany recently admitted to having committed acts of genocide during the Herero rebellion in 1904, in Namibia, it is because the former monarchical regime was responsible, he emphasizes.

If Canada admitted to having committed genocide, it could not blame another political regime.

Here, throughout the residential school period, we had liberal governments and conservative oppositions or conservative governments and liberal oppositions., recalls Professor MacDonald.

The Canadian government would then have to admit that a genocide took place under the same institutional regime.

Previous parties, previous parliaments, the previous RCMP, previous Indian affairs departments, all allegedly committed genocide, says MacDonald. Mentalities have changed and all the staff are different, but there is institutional continuity in Canada, which is not the case in Germany.

On Thursday, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 Saskatchewan First Nations, welcomed Trudeau’s confession that Canada committed genocide.

Our leaders have denounced this genocide for decades. It is high time for their efforts to be recognized and for the Prime Minister to admit that what happened to our people was nothing less than genocide, said federation leader Bobby Cameron.

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