Canada’s top judge says country committed ‘cultural genocide’ against Indigenous peoples - APTN National NewsAPTN National News

Canada’s top judge says country committed ‘cultural genocide’ against Indigenous peoples



(Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. Photo courtesy of Roy Grogan)

APTN National News
Canada committed “cultural genocide” against Indigenous peoples through policies like Indian residential schools which were created to wipe out the languages and cultures of pre-existing nations, said the country’s top judge in a speech delivered Thursday.

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin delivered her remarks as Ottawa prepares for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final national event which begins Sunday.

McLachlin said Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples in the 19th and early 20th Century was aimed at annihilating their culture and language in a bid to solve John A. Macdonald’s ‘Indian problem’ for good.

“In the buzz-word of the day, assimilation; in the language of the 21st Century, cultural genocide,” said the Chief Justice, according to notes of McLachlin’s speech provided to APTN National News. “The most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record relates to our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization.”

McLachlin said “an initial period cooperative inter-reliance grounded in norms of equality and mutual dependence” was supplanted by “the ethos of exclusion and cultural annihilation.”

She also listed some the tactics Canada used to “solve’ the Indian problem.

“Early laws forbade treaty Indians from leaving allocated reservations. Starvation and disease were rampant. Indians were denied the right to vote. Religious and social traditions, like the Potlatch and the Sun Dances, were outlawed. Children were taken from their parents and sent away to residential schools where they were forbidden to speak their native languages, forced to wear white man’s clothing, forced to observe Christian religious practices, and not infrequently subjected to sexual abuse,” said McLachlin.

McLachlin said for Macdonald and other Canadian officials at the time, “‘Indianess’ was not to be tolerated; rather it must be eliminated.”

The speech

Download (PDF, 65KB)

McLachlin said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which were both the result of the multi-billion dollar residential school settlement between Ottawa, the churches and survivors, are examples of Canada coming to grips with this dark legacy.

“Yet the legacy of intolerance lives on in the lives of First Nation people and their children—a legacy of too much poverty, too little education and over-representation of Aboriginal people in our courts,” she said. “The lessons from the Canadian experience are replicated where intolerance has been systemically imposed—from Nazi attempts to eliminate Jews, gypsies and homosexuals, to Apartheid of South Africa, to the genocide of Rwanda. Intolerance doesn’t work and imposes enormous and unacceptable costs. Ultimately, the only way forward is the way of tolerance.”

McLachlin delivered the speech during the fourth annual Pluralism Lecture of the Global Centre for Pluralism. The Globe and Mail was one of the sponsors for the event. The Globe and Mail first reported on the speech.

Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair has called the Indian residential school policy an act of genocide under the UN definition of the term. Article “e” of the UN definition states genocide includes “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Sinclair told the Assembly of First Nations during a speech in Winnipeg this past December that the TRC’s final report, which will be released on Tuesday, will include a section on genocide.

The Harper government has denied Indian residential schools were a form of genocide and has previously ordered spokespeople not to respond to questions on the subject.

Former Aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan, who is now his party’s Whip in the House of Commons, said he didn’t see the residential school system was the result of an “education policy gone wrong.” He said it may have been “lethal” to First Nations culture if it continued.

“I don’t view it that way (as an act of cultural genocide), but it was certainly very negative to the retention of culture and if had extended for another generation or two it might have been lethal,” said Duncan.

The federal Aboriginal Affairs department issued an internal order to stonewall and avoid public questions on the issue after Duncan’s 2011 comment sparked outrage. The senior department official also requested the deletion of emails discussing the plan to avoid dealing with the questions.

Recent academic research has argued that the Indian residential school system does fit the UN definition of genocide.

“Canadians like to think we are a moral country, that we are good guys. A lot of Canadians recognize that residential schools were painful, that there was abuse…But there isn’t a widespread recognition that they were part of a systemic attempt to eliminate by force Aboriginal culture,” said University of Manitoba professor Christopher Powell in a previous interview with APTN on his book, Barbaric Civilization, in which he makes the argument.

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  • Sealy57

    And this is news? Native Indians have been marginalized and excluded from Canadian society since the 1800s. But now as they seek reparations through treaty settlements while attempting to preserve their unique and ancient culture they are looked on as being lazy and greedy. It is long past time to treat natives in this country with the same sense of equality and fairness as that offered other Canadians. It is time to bring them into the mainstream of Canadian society, while at the same time allowing them to maintain and preserve their cultural heritage.

    • Gul_Abul

      This pie in the sky thinking is what is the matter with indian culture today. Why do I have to be subjected to indian mainstream culture? Who says they are not treated fairly? This is all past tense stuff. No one is stopping them from living as they wish. When are indians going to start paying reparations to those immigrants massacred by the tribes in the 1800’s?
      Look, stop asking for special status, cash handouts and whining about inequality, and start contributing to moving Canada forward, and you will have what you want. Other communities are doing it, with a lot less than they have.

      • Kayc Peters

        Excuse me but have you read the history , taken from families no choice to be raped and abused stripped of their dignity. .no support physiological therapy .. Then labeled as alcoholics because they didn’t have therapy to cope with the traumatizing life experiences , they invented alcoholic and ciggerates 2 deadly toxins …is the most disgusting things ive hurd my knowlege sickins me …Roman Catholic Churches and Europeans that just come a shore and claim first nations land … First Nations …
        How can one idiot think that all first nations want is money … look at all the kids that were taken from parents at the age of 6 yrs… Totally screwed up a few Generations of first nations all because of Residential schooling ,it didn’t only affect my Grandfather but his children and their children .. one thing I can say is ,I’m a brake the cycle .. No more pain and suffering for First Nations Children , they should be with family but no they’re still
        Holding them in their messed up homes in the ministry , to this day kids are still be taken …

  • til

    The “Indian problem” will never be solved until there are no more people walking this earth.

  • til

    Then and only then will there be no more hating us beautiful Indians

    • CanuckleDragger

      I’ve never heard an Aboriginal person refer to themselves as “Indian”. You are either Aboriginal or Indigenous. The name “Indian” was given to you by a lost Italian who was looking for India at the time. If he could say he found Indians, he was only half as lost. He then went on to discover America. The problem being, when you find a land that has upwards of 5 million people there, it’s already been discovered.

  • Shareigh Burkitt

    Equality for all is the only way this country is going to move forward. No more reparations no more reserves. All humans treated equally as humans. The government is fuelling racism and we hafeto stop this trend. If you have two children and you spoil one and punish the other, how good of a relationship are those children going to have? They are going to hate each other. Stop looking at religion that’s what got us into this mess in the first place. There’s no room for religion in government. Instead look to humanity! All humans in Canada treated absolutely equal!!! Regardless of race gender sexual orientation religion or ethnicity. HUMANS!!! And as such we all deserve equal treatment, and until our government figures that out we cannot move forward. I believe in a world where racism is a thing of the distant past. Do you? Equality for all humans created equal.

    • Gul_Abul

      Perfectly good argument…which you had a magic wand to make it so…unfortunately the are powers that be will never let it happen.

    • CanuckleDragger

      “Equality for all humans created equal.”
      You are quoting Thomas Jefferson who owned 250 slaves when he coined that phrase.

  • Gul_Abul

    So this is news??? Big deal…this is just another venue for indians try and claim on issues dating back hundreds of years. Move on…

  • GetMe2Valhalla

    You have to wipe out undesirables to make way for desirables. Basic evolution. This is a prehistoric race that didn’t even have the wheel nor a written language.

    • Jer

      Thats why there is a generally accepted rule in the UN …….. in time Canada will to forced to comply

  • GetMe2Valhalla

    Basic evolution. Stronger survives

  • K Dunn

    Sad they have to use the same zionist white wash judge all the time. But in a nation of retards that know nothing , unless media tells them so, I guess we deserve it

  • Jer

    First Nation soveirgn nation’s,,,,, on all fronts…… revenue sharing with F.N resource controls… That’s the future… :)