Winnipeg Free Press
By: Christopher Powell
Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, has declared that Canada’s Indian residential school system was an act of genocide. This statement will disturb many Canadians. Some will say that our collective soul-searching over the Indian residential schools has gone on long enough, or too long, and that indigenous people should just let go of the past and move on.
But Justice Sinclair was right to make this declaration. Acknowledging Canada’s responsibility for genocide is necessary to heal the great harm done by this traumatic historic event. It is necessary both for indigenous peoples, and for non-indigenous Canadians as well.
The Indian residential school system, in both its stated intent and its observable effects, meets the definition of genocide specified in the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. Article 2 of that convention defines genocide as certain acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such,” and includes in the specified acts, “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
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