Canada uncovers the "genocide" with which it coexists | International


No one helped Tina Fontaine before she was killed. After the violent death of her father, when she was 12 years old, she began to miss school, to take drugs, to run away from home and to go out with adults who sexually abused her. Despite the signs of a severe depression, social services did not attend the least. In August 2014, when she was 15 years old, the body of the teenager, belonging to the Anishinaabe people, was found in the Red River of Winnipeg (Canada), rolled up in a blanket. Fontaine had been gone for a week. A jury acquitted the only suspect in the crime, Raymond Joseph Cormier. The case generated great indignation and was one of the triggers of an independent national investigation on violence against indigenous women in Canada that, 33 months later, has concluded that the country has been "complicit" in a "genocide" against this population.

After hearing the testimonies of about 1,500 people (relatives, victims, experts in different areas), the commission in charge of investigating these events delivered a 1,192-page report this week. "This genocide has been supported by the colonialist structures" that still survive in the Canadian State, according to the document. It refers, among others, to the Indian Act, the federal law that regulates most of the activities of indigenous groups.

Since 1980, the indigenous people killed and disappeared amount to 1,200

The report shows that the errors of the system, like the one Fontaine experienced in his own flesh, are more common with indigenous people. They are the most vulnerable and suffer the most from the violence of an environment of racism, lack of attention and impunity. According to figures from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the homicide rate of women belonging to indigenous groups is almost six times higher than that of other Canadians. 10% of all women reported missing are indigenous. Taken together, Canadian indigenous groups – such as the Innu, Cree, Abenaki, Mohawk and Atikamekw – have 1.6 million members, 4.6% of the country's total population.

State inaction

The authors of the report do not indicate, with names and surnames, those responsible for this terrifying framework, but they do report that these crimes are due to a "planned genocide, based on race, identity and gender", which is supported by policies colonialists and state inaction and that is especially focused on women, girls and members of the LGTBI community. Indirectly, they refer to both the federal government and each of the provinces. Since 1980, the indigenous people killed and disappeared amount to 1,200, according to the most conservative calculations. In many cases it is not known who the perpetrators were, because the crimes went unpunished.

"Suddenly, the world fell apart. Tamara had disappeared. The days, weeks, months and years have passed, "said Gladys Radek, whose testimony appears in the report. Radek is aunt of Tamara Lynn Chipman, a young woman who was last seen on a road in northern British Columbia, a Canadian province, on September 21, 2005. She was 22 years old and had a son of three. "My sister disappeared on June 18, 2006," says Melanie Morrison in the same document. "They found his remains four years later, less than a kilometer from his house. The local police was in charge of the investigation, but later it went to the Quebec one. The case is still open, "he added.

Physical, psychological and sexual abuse

The report evokes the forced sterilization of indigenous people, a practice that officially ended in 1973, but could have followed according to investigations and testimonies

The report also makes reference to the network of internees, which operated between 1883 and 1996, where some 150,000 children were forcibly transferred to be stripped of their cultural expressions. A Truth Commission concluded in 2015 that they suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse, and estimated that some 3,200 children died in these centers due to lack of care.

Some experts point out that the experience in the boarding schools was a factor that spread the violence and the problems of addictions among their survivors. Similarly, the report evokes the forced sterilizations suffered by various indigenous women, a practice that officially ended in 1973, but investigations and various testimonies pointed to subsequent cases. In addition, the text highlights that the suicide rate is between five and seven times higher among indigenous youth.

The commission issued 231 recommendations, including changes in police protocols, with more indigenous agents, and in the judicial system. The report states that the justice system has always ignored the problems of indigenous women and has seen them through "persistent racism lenses and sexist stereotypes." This has generated much distrust among them towards the system. "Police apathy often takes the form of stereotyping victims and criminalizing them, such as when the police describe the disappeared as 'drunks', 'party girls' or 'prostitutes who are not worth looking for', according to the report.

The relatives of the victims interviewed stated that the judicial processes were frequently, in their opinion, "inadequate, unfair and traumatic". The document also focuses on the misogyny, homophobia and transphobia that these people face in everyday life, as well as the difficulties they have in accessing various services.

Controversy on how to define an alarming problem

"We welcome his work (from the commission of inquiry) and accept his findings, especially that what happened was a genocide," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week, a day after the report was presented, to which he also he came

The reference to genocide has provoked controversy. In the chorus of debates, some voices catalog this statement as accurate and extremely necessary; others define it as not adequate. However, no one doubts the serious situation that the indigenous people of the country face.

The convention on the genocide of 1948 defines the crime strictly: it refers to violent acts that are clearly committed with a very specific intention, which is often difficult to prove. In the report on indigenous women, the authors argue that the term genocide is valid in this case and, given the seriousness of the problem, they prepare a supplementary report dedicated only to giving details of their reasons for qualifying it.

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