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This article was published 6/6/2019 (403 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On the eve of the release of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, former Aboriginal affairs minister Bernard Valcourt showed Canada why the document is so valuable.
After media leaked the findings of the report and the inquiry’s assertion that Canada is complicit in acts of genocide against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people, Mr. Valcourt last Friday tweeted: "How far do those activists will go? (sic) What has been the cost to Canadians for this propagandist report? What have we learned that we did not already know? Who feels better in Canada among First Nations for that thunderous silly conclusion that all we wanted was to kill them all?"
In French, he went further: "How much did this sham cost taxpayers? Who learned what from this so-called analysis and report?"
If anything, Mr. Valcourt is consistent. As former prime minister Stephen Harper’s minister of Aboriginal affairs from 2013 to 2015, he rejected calls for an inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. In fact, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for such an inquiry in 2015 and the demand prompted a standing ovation, he refused to rise.
Mr. Valcourt was criticized for being out of touch and denying the reality that too many Indigenous women and girls suffer an overwhelming amount of violence and are six times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-Indigenous females.
"Exterminating a people instantly, or slowly eliminating one by marginalizing its cultures and languages, legislating it into poverty and sickness and assimilating its children via removal or locking them away, have the same effect: the end of that people."
In interviews regarding his tweets, Mr. Valcourt went beyond his denial that genocide occurred. "I take offence to Canada being accused of genocide," he stated. "My comprehension of genocide is measured by what genocide really is. I don’t think it serves any purpose to call the action of the government genocide because it was not genocide."
He said using the term to describe what has happened to Indigenous Peoples in Canada "won’t solve anything."
It’s worth noting that Mr. Valcourt said all of this without reading the report.
Had he bothered, he would have seen the inquiry does not compare what Indigenous Peoples have experienced with well-documented massacres in Rwanda and the Holocaust. Instead, the inquiry used contemporary academic definitions, which state genocide can occur over a long period of time through laws, institutions and education.
This makes sense. Exterminating a people instantly, or slowly eliminating one by marginalizing its cultures and languages, legislating it into poverty and sickness and assimilating its children via removal or locking them away, have the same effect: the end of that people.
The inquiry explains this difference over five pages in Volume 1a, citing the work of dozens of academics alongside the most up-to-date research on genocide from across the world.
It would not have taken Mr. Valcourt long to read this — and perhaps it still would not have changed his opinion. But he just didn’t take the time.
"For Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Valcourt’s face, opinions and ideas are what Canada presented to them for years: someone who refused to stop, listen and read. He just tweeted, and then doubled down."
Instead, he rushed to judgment, defaulted to outdated opinions and refused to budge. And let’s not forget: he used to be in charge of Indigenous affairs in Canada.
For Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Valcourt’s face, opinions and ideas are what Canada presented to them for years: someone who refused to stop, listen and read. He just tweeted, and then doubled down.
Mr. Valcourt demonstrated why Canada must spend a lot more time listening if reconciliation is ever going to be possible in this country.
And that might just be the former Aboriginal affairs minister’s most valuable contribution of all.
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