Manitoba

Manitoba NDP leader doesn't want his kids to see themselves as genocide victims after release of MMIWG report

A First Nations politician in Manitoba says he does not want his children to see themselves as victims of genocide.

Use of term aligns with recent legal practice, scholarly opinion, says U of M prof

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the MMIWG report lays out a good argument for how the United Nations definition of genocide applies in Canada, but he wants a focus on ensuring change for Indigenous people. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

A First Nations politician in Manitoba says he does not want his children to see themselves as victims of genocide.

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the term genocide should not be the legacy of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The use of the term instantly became a flashpoint after the inquiry's report, released Monday, concluded that violence against Indigenous women in Canada has amounted to genocide.

Kinew says the report lays out a good argument for how the United Nations definition of genocide applies in Canada.

But he says he would like citizens, organizations and governments to keep focused on ensuring change for Indigenous people.

"I have no interest in my sons seeing themselves as the victims or survivors of genocide," Kinew told reporters Tuesday.

"I want my sons to view themselves as proud, capable people of integrity, people who hold their heads high in society."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he accepts the finding that Canada's treatment of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls amounts to genocide.

But he said people are wrapped up in the use the powerful term, when the focus should be on how to put an end to issues raised by the inquiry.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he will let other people debate whether genocide is the right term while his government considers how to move ahead in the spirit of the report.

"What I am interested in is moving forward, understanding our history, learning from it, not repeating it, but moving forward."

Legal definition has evolved since 1948: professor

A University of Manitoba genocide scholar said the report's use of the term helps bring Canadian discussion of settler colonialism into alignment with recent legal practice and scholarly opinion.

Adam Muller, director of peace and conflict studies at the university, said many people in the public have an understanding of genocide roughly in line with the Genocide Convention, written in 1948 as international leaders grappled with the legal aftermath of the Holocaust.

But he said that document, which focuses on genocide perpetrated through physical violence, doesn't capture another route to genocide: the destruction of culture and ties holding groups together.

That's no accident, he added. Many of the countries that helped craft the legal definition in the 1940s had their own legacies of forced assimilation and cultural destruction, which they didn't want to see indicted as genocide.

"It's insufficient precisely because it represents the interests of the powerful," Muller told CBC Radio's Up To Speed.

"Particularly, it has sort of buried within it traces of exactly the kind of colonial bias that the MMIWG inquiry is attempting to confront."

But Muller said he thinks the work of the inquiry goes beyond the word itself.

"At the end of the day, there are people who have suffered and continue to suffer," he said.

"I think the report foregrounds that suffering, asks us to do something about that suffering, and that's the conversation we should be having right now."

About the Author

Kelly Geraldine Malone

The Canadian Press

Kelly Geraldine Malone is a reporter for The Canadian Press.

With files from CBC Manitoba's Up To Speed