Missing women’s inquiry leaders reconcile Canada Day with ‘genocide’ finding

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller says Canada Day reminds many Indigenous people about colonization

Commissioners Marion Buller (left) and Commissioner Michele Audette prepare the official copy of the report for presentation to the government during ceremonies marking the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women report in Gatineau June 3, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

When Michèle Audette was growing up, Canada Day was not a celebration. It left her feeling bitter.

The daughter of a Quebecois father and an Innu mother, Audette didn’t see herself in the school curriculum.

She didn’t see a recognition of Indigenous populations that existed for thousands of years in many of the places she lived.

But she was also conflicted.

When First Nations, Metis and Inuit dancers took the stage there would be a feeling of pride, she says, even if it was only fleeting.

“They were there to remind Canada that people were here, are still here today, and showing the resilience of our nations. It is beautiful,” she says. ”But it needs to be there everyday. It needs to be there in the laws, the policies and the programs.”

Audette spent more than two years hearing testimony from women, families and experts as one of the commissioners from the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The inquiry’s final report, released in early June, detailed a deliberate and persistent pattern of abuses against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited people and LGBTQ individuals, which it said can only be described as a genocide.

The report included 231 recommendations, including calls for all Canadians to learn Indigenous history and use that knowledge to break down barriers.

A lot of Indigenous people don’t celebrate Canada Day because it’s a reminder of colonization, says inquiry Chief Commissioner Marion Buller. And they won’t celebrate until they see a real change in policies and practices from all levels of government, she says.

“One thing that we all have to accept is colonization happened and is still happening,” says Buller, who is from Mistawasis First Nation in Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

When the Europeans first arrived, First Nations helped the settlers survive. But over time, the fur market declined, as did military threats, and Indigenous people became an obstacle.

Reserves were set up on less habitable land to make room for railroads and settlements, or so that water could be diverted. Ceremonies were outlawed and a pass system was set up to control movement. Inadequate government rations left communities starving and susceptible to sickness.

Children were forced into residential schools where many faced physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Thousands of children died.

The ’60s Scoop in which Indigenous children were adopted out to non-Indigenous families followed.

Many Canadians were not taught this history growing up, the commissioners say, and were shocked to learn colonization continues.

Family members who testified at the inquiry spoke about multigenerational trauma. They told commissioners about ongoing policies displacing women from traditional roles, forced sterilizations, children being apprehended, confrontations with police, poverty, violence and housing insecurity.

“This country is at war, and Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are under siege,” the report says.

The inquiry found human and Indigenous rights violations, homophobia, transphobia and marginalization “woven into the fabric of Canadian society,” says Commissioner Brian Eyolfson from the Couchiching First Nation in Ontario.

Canada Day is an opportunity for education, he suggests.

“It’s important to include Indigenous Peoples and their histories, contributions and their current realities in celebrations.”

The holiday is problematic when it only reflects a palatable history of the country, adds commissioner Qajaq Robinson, but it doesn’t mean non-Indigenous people opt out because they feel ashamed.

“I don’t think it accomplishes much if we bow our heads in shame and hide in our living rooms,” says Robinson, who was born and raised in Nunavut.

She says the country’s positive aspects can be celebrated without glossing over the destructive parts of its past. But that means including Indigenous communities and making sure they feel welcome on their own terms.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

RCMP warn drivers who fail to stop for school buses

Quesnel RCMP release image of near-miss involving vehicle and students attempting to cross the road

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Quesnel boys help rescue bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to a wildlife sanctuary in Smithers for the winter

UPDATE: traffic flowing again on Highway 97 at Alexandria after incident

A vehicle incident has closed one lane of Highway 97 Dec. 6

New Gold sponsors Quesnel ski club

The Lightning Creek Ski Club is grateful to corporate sponsors like New Gold Inc. Blackwater Project

Fashion Fridays: Ethical and sustainable gifts for the season

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

Most Read