Investigating A 'Canadian Genocide' Of Indigenous Women
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls were the victims of a Canadian genocide - that's according to a report obtained by the CBC and scheduled to be released publicly in Ottawa tomorrow. The inquiry is reported to have concluded that their deaths were the result of state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies. Jorge Barrera is a reporter with the CBC's indigenous unit. And he has read the report, and he joins us now.
Welcome to the program.
JORGE BARRERA: Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know the stories of these women. Can you tell us one of them?
BARRERA: Well, there's one case that is from Thunder Bay - a woman named Christina Gliddy who was found, you know, dying by a train bridge. And it came out that Thunder Bay police actually spoke to a man who said she was with her the night before her death on her last night on Earth. And there was no follow-up.
Then it later turned out that his DNA was in an offender registry. And the Thunder Bay police, they never ran the DNA to determine, you know, whether it was his or not. So you know, you have a disappearance where, you know, police do little, even though there's evidence pointing to possible culprits, and there is failures in actually doing a proper and thorough investigation.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what were the findings of - briefly - of this report?
BARRERA: Well, the most explosive finding - and the way it's been (unintelligible) is very - been very controversial since we've reported this and other media have picked it up as well is that the inquiry determined that the thousands of murdered missing Indigenous women and girls were the victims of a genocide in Canada. And in some places, the report terms it as a Canadian genocide.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are disagreements in Canada, as you know, about what constitutes genocide. And there will actually be an additional report on the treatment of Indigenous peoples according to the legal definition of genocide. But I take it Indigenous leaders have used that term for years. Why?
BARRERA: The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations issued a - Perry Bellegarde issued a statement yesterday outlining why. In Canada, just like in the U.S., there was Indian residential schools. And what's come out is that at least 6,000 Indigenous children died at these schools. A lot of it was diseases that were allowed to spread and deaths resulting from physical abuse. And some of these children are buried in graves that are unmarked and are - some - you know, lost in time.
And then after that, there was the Sixties Scoop where children were scooped out of their communities and fostered out into non-Indigenous homes. And now we have a situation with the child welfare system that is still seeing high rates of apprehension of Indigenous children. All these things and all these controls are what First Nations leaders say - the tools of this genocide.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The commission was charged with coming up with recommendations to address the causes of violence and increase the safety of Indigenous women, right? So what are some of those recommendations?
BARRERA: They want to change, in the criminal code, to make any homicide connected to an intimate partner relationship where there's a pattern of violence to classify it immediately as a first-degree murder, which commands more jail time on conviction, like a 20-year sentence, which is called life here in Canada. And the other one is to consider violence against Indigenous women and girls an aggravating factor at sentencing.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So basically, if you're an Indigenous woman and a crime is committed against you, that should be a factor that is considered in the case.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So do you think this report, when it's released formally tomorrow, in what the government is calling a solemn national ceremony, will bring closure to these families? And what's been the reaction of the First Nations of Canada?
BARRERA: It's been mixed. On the one hand, the conclusion of genocide by the inquiry is something that has been welcomed from Indigenous leadership in terms of this is validating what we've said for a long time. What I have heard is that there is some criticism that this conclusion may actually overshadow the specific issue of violence against Indigenous women and girls. And the process itself was deemed problematic by some families who felt that they had been left out or their needs weren't adequately met by the report.
But this strong finding - this using, you know, the word genocide has taken things to another level in a lot of ways. But at the same time, you know, some families are saying, well, what about the specific cases that we were hoping that you would actually look into and tell us what's going on and what we can change about them to get justice?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jorge Barrera is a reporter with the CBC's Indigenous unit.
Thank you so much.
BARRERA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.