Chief commissioner Marion Buller, left to right, and commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Qajaq Robinson and Michele Audette prepare the final report to give to the government at the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Que., on Monday, June 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Genocide against Indigenous women and girls ‘obvious,’ says chief commissioner

Andrew Scheer rejection that conclusion from the inquiry

The chief commissioner of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls says it’s “pretty obvious” that the tragedies amount to a genocide.

Marion Buller made the remarks in a speech Monday at a conference on the topic held by the University of British Columbia in collaboration with Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“We made what to me is pretty obvious, but it’s turned out to be controversial, finding of fact that the disappearances, murders and violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls … is genocide,” she said

The inquiry’s final report, released last week, detailed a deliberate and persistent pattern of abuses against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited people and LGBT individuals, which it said can only be described as a genocide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not directly answered questions about whether he agrees with this finding, but has said he accepts it. Other politicians, including Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, have rejected the conclusion.

VIDEO: Trudeau accepts inquiry finding of genocide, but says focus must be on response

Buller said in an interview that she welcomes the national discussion about the meaning of genocide.

“I think once people get over, maybe, the shock of the word genocide, I think we’re going to move then onto focusing more on our calls for justice, but we have to have these awful, difficult conversations to start with.”

She said there is more than one type of genocide.

“The type of genocide we’re talking about in our report is generations of underfunding, generations of marginalization, generations of moving communities to new locations without consent, generations of taking children without consent,” she said.

“As my colleague, commissioner (Qajaq) Robinson said, it’s death by a million paper cuts.”

VIDEO: Andrew Scheer says Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women not a ‘genocide’

The prime minister has promised a national plan to address the issues raised in the report. Buller said she’s not worried about the possibility that the plan won’t be ready until after the next federal election.

“I don’t think something like a national action plan should be rushed, because there has to be the proper participation of Indigenous people, Indigenous organizations,” she said.

Buller said she’s pleased with Trudeau’s response so far and relieved that he accepts all of the inquiry’s findings of fact.

“That means he believes the families and survivors and their truths,” she said. “So, I think it’s maybe one or two positive steps forward. I just hope over the course of the election we don’t take steps backward.”

Buller also said she isn’t concerned that a new government won’t accept the finding of genocide. There are activists, survivors and family members across Canada who are not going to allow the report to sit on a shelf gathering dust, she said.

“Whoever forms the government is going to be facing a lot of, I think the polite word would be encouragement from all those groups.”

Buller, who was the first female First Nations judge in B.C., also took aim at the media in her speech, accusing some pundits of not actually reading it.

In the interview, she said she was disappointed no media outlet applied for standing to give evidence during the inquiry because the media play a role in how Indigenous women are perceived.

“I thought, and I hoped, that the media would want to take an active part in what we were doing, and they would want to be able to do some self-examination as well,” she said.

The two-day conference hosted by UBC’s First Nations House of Learning is set to address issues of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

Buller told the audience of mostly women and Indigenous family members who have lost loved ones that the report has started difficult conversations, but Canada must know the truth before it can achieve reconciliation.

Commissioners heard family members and survivors share heartbreaking stories of love, loss and grief, she said, but they also heard stories of courage and resistance against colonialism.

Laura Kane , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

Man found dead in his tent at Chemainus homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Town of Ladysmith adopts 1.92 percent tax increase for 2020

Mayor Aaron Stone said the increase balances lost revenue while maintaining town services

Ladysmith principal mourns family killed during US protests

Jelks says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from the community in the wake of this tragedy

Considerations made to keep Crofton drive-by birthday celebrations going

Trucks will tone it down or not use horns at all to bring some joy to kids and older folks

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Most Read