Saskatchewan

Premier Scott Moe disagrees with MMIWG inquiry's genocide finding

Premier Scott Moe disagrees with the MMIWG inquiry's finding that genocide was committed by the state against Canada's Indigenous peoples from the colonial era to the present. The word has been up for debate by some since the report was released last week.

NDP Leader says Sask. Party policies have made conditions worse for Indigenous women

'It is unfortunate that the use of this term has distracted from the recommended action highlighted in the report, recommendations our government is reviewing diligently,' said a statement from Premier Scott Moe's office. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he doesn't agree that genocide was committed by the state against Canada's Indigenous peoples.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) came to an "inescapable conclusion" in its final report — that genocide was committed from the colonial era to the present.

When CBC asked for Moe's opinion Monday morning, the premier's office replied with the following statement:

"While the historic violence highlighted in the MMIWG report is extreme and unacceptable, when viewed through the lens of other examples of deliberate and systematic destruction of ethnic, racial, religious or national groups; such as the Armenian genocide, the Holodomor, the Holocaust, or the Rwandan Genocide; the Premier does not agree with the use of the term in the report," the premier's statement said.

"It is unfortunate that the use of this term has distracted from the recommended action highlighted in the report, recommendations our government is reviewing diligently."

Moe is not the first public figure to disagree with the conclusion since the report was released last week. 

This discourse dismisses the serious nature of missing and murdered Indigenous women and misses what's important — the recommendations and action moving forward, said freelance journalist and Indigenous affairs columnist Doug Cuthand. He wrote a column about the use of the word — and the push-back against it. 

Doug Cuthand is freelance journalist who wrote a column about the use of the word 'genocide' — and the push-back against it. (Richard Agecoutay)

"It's all focused on this one word — and that's a mistake​," Cuthand said. "The word itself is very inflammatory and when it came out people ​thought of genocide in the very worst form​," he said, noting "the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide and other atrocious acts done in the past.​" ​

​However, he said the United Nations definition is much broader. 

According to the UN, genocide is any of five acts committed with the "intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

The MMIWG report noted several contributing acts committed by government or professionals against Indigenous people, such as the Indian residential school systemthe "Sixties Scoop" of Indigenous children, forced sterilization of Indigenous women and allegations of police inaction on murder cases when it came to the genocide conclusion.

​Cuthand said he expects more from political leaders who have dismissed the word. 

​"​P​oliticians​ —​ ​an​d I'm meaning all stripes here​ — ​ tend to appeal to the lowest common denominator​," he said, noting it's easy to dismiss the word and move on. 

"If ​you stop to describe it and define it and dissect it — then it takes a lot longer and becomes complicated.​" ​

Like Moe, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the level of violence directed at Indigenous women and girls in Canada should not be labelled genocide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said "we accept their findings, including that what happened amounts to genocide," one day after the inquiry's closing ceremony. 

NDP Leader: MMIWG report paints 'stark picture'

CBC also asked Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili if he agrees that the murders of Indigenous women and girls constitute a genocide.

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the MMIWG report 'paints a stark picture' of the violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in Canada. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

In an emailed response, Meili did not use the word "genocide" but said the MMIWG report "paints a stark picture" of the violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in Canada.

"The Commissioners' choice of words is rooted in their understanding of that violence, and when you consider the history of the pass system, intentional starvation to move populations, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the current high rates of poverty, illness, food insecurity and homelessness among First Nations and Métis people in Canada, it's clear why that word was chosen."

Meili said some Saskatchewan Party policies have made things worse, including the shuttering of the provincial bus company STC and cuts to legal aid.

The current provincial government has also presided over rising incarceration rates of Indigenous people, and "a sharp increase" in the number of apprehensions of First Nations and Métis children, he said.

with files from John Paul Tasker

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