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EDITORIAL: Report calls for sweeping change

Illuminated jars on the steps of the Colonial Building in St. John’s Thursday evening represented the missing and murdered women and girls in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Illuminated jars on the steps of the Colonial Building in St. John’s Thursday, representing missing and murdered women and girls. — Telegram file photo

Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women addresses genocide

It’s easy to get hung up on the shock value of a single word — and in this case, the word is “genocide.”

The fact is that the description of the treatment of Indigenous women as a “Canadian genocide” in the final report from the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is guaranteed to derail at least part of the discussion.

But don’t let it.

Look further, and stop to consider the major changes that the inquiry is recommending after reviewing the huge number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the treatment of two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people (2SLGBTQQIA) in this country.

The report even floats the idea of a separate court system for Canada’s Indigenous peoples, one with “meaningful and culturally appropriate justice practices ...”

The report, released Sunday, has a massive list of more than 230 recommendations, ranging from changes to the administration of justice — such as classing cases involving the death of a partner where there has been a pattern of domestic abuse as first-degree murder, and recommending “Indigenous-specific options” for sentencing.

The justice system should, its authors recommend, have more Indigenous police officers, judges and justices of the peace.

The report even floats the idea of a separate court system for Canada’s Indigenous peoples, one with “meaningful and culturally appropriate justice practices ...”

And more.

The report recommends official language status for Indigenous languages — it also recommends a guaranteed income for all Indigenous peoples, along with strengthening emergency protection orders.

The report says, “We call upon all governments to immediately and dramatically transform Indigenous policing from its current state as a mere delegation to an exercise in self-governance and self-determination over policing. … The federal government’s First Nations Policing Program must be replaced with a new legislative and funding framework, consistent with international and domestic policing best practices and standards, that must be developed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.”

That gives you an idea of how broad the changes are — nothing less than a sweeping overhaul of the way government and justice systems operate in this country, and not just at the federal level, either.

The report calls for changes in provincial, municipal and Indigenous governments as well, all the way to charging ordinary Canadians to “confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia, and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs: in your home, in your workplace, or in social settings.”

There’s no doubt that describing the current situation as a Canadian genocide may build walls, instead of knocking them down. That description will get attention, and not all of that attention will be the right kind. There will be anger, denial and dismissal.

But look past the shock of those words to the facts they are describing.

Listen, read and consider all the words, not just a few.

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