House of Commons recognizes residential schools as genocide
MP Leah Gazan’s second motion on issue approved unanimously by House of Commons
Actions speak louder than words, but NDP MP Leah Gazan reminded all of Parliament that words matter.
During question period in the House of Commons on Thursday, Gazan tabled a motion asking that the government formally recognize that what happened in Canadian residential schools was genocide.
Nunavut MP Lori Idlout, who was present in the House for the vote, later referred to it as an emotional moment and called the vote historic.
“This defining moment will open the doors for many and it is an important acknowledgement, knowing there are some who try to deny what happened,” Idlout said.
Canada’s residential school system was a government policy for more than a century to separate Indigenous children from their culture and language by removing them from their families and forcing them to attend schools far from their home communities.
Gazan, the MP for Winnipeg Centre, first introduced a similar motion in June 2021 shortly after the location of unmarked graves at the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
When first presented in the House, that motion failed, an outcome that Gazan said on Thursday reflected that residential school denial was still a reality at that time.
This second motion came in the wake of Pope Francis’ acknowledgment that what happened at residential schools constituted a genocide, following a week long trip to Canada from July 24 to 29, 2022. That trip included a one-day visit to Iqaluit as its last stop, following visits to Edmonton and Quebec City.
Although Francis called the residential school system a “disastrous error” and formally apologized for “the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous Peoples.”
But the Pope did not go so far as to define it as genocide while on Canadian soil.
During a media scrum on the plane ride back to Rome from Iqaluit on July 30, however, the Pope stated that he considered what happened at residential schools in Canada to be genocide.
As presented, Gazan’s motion Oct. 27 passed a unanimous vote in Parliament.