Summarizing the report, the inquiry stated: “Persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”
2SLGBTQQIA refers to people who are two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, or asexual.
Almost 2,400 family members and survivors of violence, alongside academics and community members, either appeared or submitted accounts or information to two years of hearings across Canada – including sessions in Yellowknife.
The full report runs to some 1,200 pages. A shorter, 50-page executive summary is available.
In explaining why the inquiry chose to use the term “genocide,” that summary’s authors wrote: “Despite the National Inquiry’s best efforts to gather all of the truths relating to the missing and murdered, we conclude that no one knows an exact number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada.
“Thousands of women’s deaths or disappearances have likely gone unrecorded over the decades, and many families likely did not feel ready or safe to share with the National Inquiry before our timelines required us to close registration.
“One of the most telling pieces of information, however, is the amount of people who shared about either their own experiences or their loved ones’ publicly for the first time.
“Without a doubt there are many more.”
Declaring a genocide
Trudeau appeared to initially avoid using the word “genocide” himself in response to the final report’s publication, even when directly asked to do so by a member of the crowd listening to him speak.
The Prime Minister did use the term later on Monday, speaking in Vancouver, when he acknowledged the report’s finding that “the tragic violence that Indigenous women and girls have experienced amounts to genocide.”
Discussing the use of the term, APTN reported:
The allegation is a strong one.
It threatens to tarnish Canada’s stellar reputation for quality of life, its standard for peace, and its position of respect within the global community.
But Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said she and her three fellow commissioners “pulled out a mirror to Canada” over 33 months of gathering evidence and “reflected the truth back.”
When asked why they used the term genocide, she said “because that’s the inescapable conclusion.”
Despite the inquiry’s extraordinary scope and the depth of its conclusions, many noted what the New York Times called “skepticism that the report would make much of a difference.”
The newspaper reported:
“Yes, genocide is exactly what’s happening, and Canada is still in denial about this,” said Lorelei Williams, a leading Indigenous advocate in Vancouver whose aunt went missing four decades ago and whose cousin was murdered by the serial killer Robert Pickton.
Paul Tuccaro, a member the Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, said he agreed with the inquiry’s description.
Mr. Tuccaro’s younger sister, Amber, 20, disappeared in August 2010, he said. The mother of a 14-month-old son, she vanished after hitching a ride. Her remains were found in a farmer’s field, and a killer has never been found.
“Whoever is doing what they’re doing, they think they can kill all these women, and nothing will come of it because they’re just ‘Indians,’” he said.
Speaking to the BBC, activists Beverley Jacobs and Terri Brown – who lost family members – said the inquiry’s report did not amount to justice for what had taken place.
The broadcaster reported:
According to Brown, “They talked to a lot of families, opened a lot of wounds. But in the end did anybody get arrested?
“There has to be justice. Those men have to go to jail. If they don’t, all the money spent and all what we talk about is not worth it, because there’s no justice.”
They also warned that, while the inquiry may have finished, rates of violence remained high.
True healing would come from indigenous Canadians reclaiming their culture, language, and traditions, Jacobs said.
She said Canada must take concrete steps towards reconciliation and taking responsibility for policies – from residential schooling, to the child welfare system and longstanding issues around land and treaties and more – that have been harmful to indigenous women.
In the North, the CBC said families of missing and murdered women and girls “welcomed” the final report.
The broadcaster reported:
Anne Catholique’s neice, Charlene Catholique, was 15 when she wentmissing near Behchoko, N.W.T., on July 22, 1990. She was originally from Lutselk’e.
On June 9, 2017, the Northwest Territories Supreme Court issued an order stating there were reasonable grounds to presume Charlene was dead. Her case was featured on a national missing person’s page last month.
Anne Catholique said she’s pleased with inquiry’s final report, particularly the call to recruit more Indigenous people into police services.
She believes that if the report’s recommendations were enacted before Charlene went missing, there would have been a different outcome.
“When there’s a Native working in the investigation, then the family feels comfortable because the Natives will also be more into it because it’s like a brother or sister thing, and it’s more involvement and more caring,” Catholique said.
Digging into the report, APTN provided a list of recommendations that apply to non-Indigenous Canadians.
The broadcaster reported:
“For many non-Indigenous people, it’s important to be ready to ‘unlearn’ some learned behaviours,” said Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the inquiry in the foreword of Reclaiming Power and Place.
The report calls for reform in policing. Not only should money be spent to bring Indigenous police services up to par and improve sexual assault investigations, but existing police work needs to be reviewed by a newly formed and transparent unit.
Present officers should receive cultural training and poverty awareness, the report suggests, and more Indigenous officers should be hired. “Police recruits should go through a screening process for bias against different cultures,” the summary added.
The report is divided into three main sections: Establishing A New Framework, Encountering Oppression, and Healing Families, Communities and Nations.
On that last point, it calls for an immediate end to birth alerts – the controversial practice of child welfare workers seizing newborns from troubled mothers.
The Trudeau government has been working to make child welfare more family friendly but, as yet, hasn’t tackled birth alerts.