Saturday, 4 July 2015

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Forcible removal of children is recognised as a form of genocide in international law. This is part of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide well as more recently made part of the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, at Article 7(2) The international position on this practice is clear.

And so it is perhaps not surprising that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that the forced removal of generations of Aboriginal children  to residential schools is “cultural genocide.” Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada explains the concept of “cultural genocide”:

Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.

But what is the significance of this finding? The term “cultural genocide” itself occupies a nebulous space within international law, according to this news analysis of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings. The question of “where do we go from here?” is addressed in this video from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission website.


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