Leah Gazan, MP for Winnipeg Centre, received unanimous support for her second tabling of a motion asking that what happened at residential schools be formally considered a genocide. (Credit: Bernard Thibodeau, House of Commons Photo Services)

House of Commons recognizes residential schools as genocide

MP Leah Gazan’s second motion on issue approved unanimously by House of Commons

By Andrea Sakiyama Kennedy

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.

 

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(42) Comments:

  1. Posted by Reality on

    How did we ever get so controlled by activist narratives?

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    • Posted by Woke on

      New woke generation thinking they know everything not even listening to elders

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      • Posted by John K on

        It’s the 21st century. People get old every day; it’s not special anymore and has nothing to do with wisdom.

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    • Posted by Reality and Narrative on

      Ironic that you try to reframe a position developed after years of consultation, study, research, and writing as an “activist narrative”, while calling yourself reality, and doing nothing to describe reality.

      If what happened at the residential schools was not a genocide, I’d direct you to the legally recognized international definition for cultural genocide. If you don’t know how to find it, may I recommend a very amazing tool called Google that was invented and then launched over 20 years ago.

      Then I’d recommend you go ahead and figure out the real meaning of the word “reality.” Here’s a hint. It isn’t your opinion or worldview, it’s a description of existing circumstances that describe society, life, culture, which impact all of us who don’t choose to live inside the walls of our mind.

      Figure it out, bud.

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      • Posted by Let Me Google That For You on

        can you kindly point us to this UN definition of cultural genocide? It is not in the convention or UNDRIP.

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  2. Posted by Ya IDK on

    Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
    Article II
    .
    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    .
    -Killing members of the group;
    .
    -Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    .
    -Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    .
    -Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    .
    -Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

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    • Posted by Ya IDK on

      “…To constitute genocide, there must be a proven intent on the part of perpetrators to physically destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Cultural destruction does not suffice, nor does an intention to simply disperse a group. It is this special intent, or dolus specialis, that makes the crime of genocide so unique. In addition, case law has associated intent with the existence of a State or organizational plan or policy, even if the definition of genocide in international law does not include that element.”
      .
      https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.shtml

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      • Posted by Really! on

        Really? Am I reading this right? Are you arguing the crime based on semantics and definitions?

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        • Posted by Semantic Games on

          Classic strawman kids.

          “an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument.”

          No one is arguing the crime.

          Semantics, yes… because what is a ‘genocide’ ?

          “The deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.”

          Were the Residential Schools genocide? I don’t what happened conforms to the standard definition. However, given the emotive force of the term and the knowledge that politicians, not being philosophers of language, are certain not to push back, the perfect opportunity is present to force a semantic shift (change the meaning of the word) while still retaining some of the impact of the original term.

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      • Posted by Disingenuous much on

        You post this, and yet, the Canadian government has already been found to have intentionally developed and executed a policy to assimilate First Nations, Metis, and Inuit and destroy their language, culture, and way of life so that they can become more like white Canadian culture which derives from British culture and society.

        So yeah, what’s your point?

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          • Posted by Yes Meanings Matter on

            Assimilation as a social and political program to develop a “solution” to a “problem”, where the “problem” is the existence of another culture that is inconvenient to the dominant one is definitely genocide.

            Meanings do matter, so your anonymous name is also ironic. Amusing.

            • Posted by Comprehension Matters too on

              I don’t think anyone here will dispute that ‘cultural genocide’ was attempted; that is “the intentional destruction of a culture. However, it does not necessarily involve killing or violence against members of the group in question. For example, cultural genocide can include the eradication of cultural activities, artifacts, language and traditions.” (See the Canadian Encyclopedia ‘Genocide and the Indigenous Peoples of Canada’)

              What we don’t agree on is the standard of use genocide: the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.

              That didn’t happen, no matter how many times you stomp your feet and say it did.
              Since you say ‘meanings matter’ I would expect you to also agree that it is undesirable to allow people to make up word meanings to suit their preferences. That seems to be what you are doing.

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  3. Posted by JOHNNY on

    What does that mean, more monies going to be doled out to the survivors of the now official ” GENOCIDE”. ?

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    • Posted by Well… on

      If by doled it you mean, say, money to assist hunters to continue teaching younger generations and to continue a cultural norm where hunters feed communities. Yes dole it out! This has been stolen and a skill that will be lost on future generations if not taught and continued. Plus without country food who can afford to eat!

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      • Posted by Northerner on

        In order , to be able to afford store bought food , you need a job. you can either hunt or work. Me , i work weekdays and hunt on weekends.

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  4. Posted by Tulugaq on

    Nobody can seriously challenge the fact that Canada committed a genocide aginst Indigenous peoples. One reader quotes “proven intent on the part of perpetrators to physically destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” which is exactly the intent of the colonial governments, to physically get rid of the “Indian problem” according to Duncan S. Campbell, Superintendent of the “Indians” at the beginning of the XXth century.

    Dr, Bryce was appointed to monitor the situation at the residential schools and alerted the government to the fact that children were dying at a disproportionate rate, even compared to deaths from tuberculosis in Indian Reserves, but the same Campbell declared that the government would not address this issue since the goal of the IRS was to make the “Indian problem” go away.

    This is all well documented in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report but unfortunately, there are still a lot of deniers in the mainstream society, and that does not help addressing the issue and plan for the future of reconciliation.

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    • Posted by Ram on

      In remembrance of those children killed, i fast on Sept 30 started 2021,
      No water, no food and read what is available, all day about the Sept 30

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    • Posted by Not so sure on

      My sense is that If they were truly committed to genocide we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

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    • Posted by Serious Qs on

      I have some questions.
      .
      Is there evidence of intentional killing or harm on a mass scale ? What is the approximate number subject to this?
      .
      Besides discovery of “potential unmarked graves”, is there any actual confirmation of any bodies? Not anomalies, not reflections under GPR, actual bodies?
      .
      If there are bodies, is there any evidence of a “State or organizational plan or policy” behind the deaths? Were the deaths “committed with intent to destroy” indigenous peoples?

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      • Posted by Umingmak on

        There is irrefutable proof that genocide occurred. This proof is both in the historical records and in graves found throughout this country.

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        • Posted by Colin on

          It’s ignorant and disgraceful to debase the meaning of the word genocide when one considers real genocides. As of June 2021, the government of Canada officially recognized eight genocides: the Holocaust (Second World War), the Armenian genocide (1915–1917), the Holodomor (1932–1933), the Rwandan genocide (1994), the Srebrenica massacre (1995), the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL (2014), the Uyghur genocide (2014–present), and the Rohingya genocide (2016–present). Those were real mass killings.

          Genocide means mass killing, usually on the basis of race. Nothing remotely like that happened in Canada. Instead there’s been a lot of invention of falsehoods saying there 215 burials beside the former Kamloops Residential School. Nearly two years after the publication of this invention not a single body has been found.

          Ground Penetrating Radar picked up tiles for a sewer laid in 1924.

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    • Posted by Devil’s Avocado on

      Here’s a fuller quote, from Campbell’s appearance before a parliamentary committee looking at amendments to the Indian Act in 1920:

      I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.

      You can call this callous or cruel, and you can characterize it as grossly negligent or unfair in light of the history of colonization. But it is not murderous.

      • Posted by Assimilation < Integration on

        A policy known as assimilation.

        I think the goal of eliminating government ‘Departments’ to ‘deal with’ Indigenous people should not only be a national goal, it should be a goal of Indigenous people as well. These lock the population in a infantile and dependent relationship with the crown, who in turn is locked into perpetual paternalism (that, presumably, no one wants).

        • Posted by We Can’t Say This on

          People are cancelled for critical thinking these days. If you ask why residential schools were developed you can’t stray from the narrative that it was a racist attempt to destroy indigenous peoples, just like the holocaust apparently.
          .
          however If you spend any amount of time in the north or around indigenous communities you might have some empathy for these policies imposed by our forefathers. Were they wrong? Yes. But i can tell you rarely a day goes by in my school where i don’t wonder whether many many children would be better off without the baggage and blunder of their parents and the “culture” that excuses negligence and violence against these children. I can understand how these schools came to being and the (flawed) logic that assimilation was a cure.

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          • Posted by You failed critical thinking on

            God I hope you’re not an educator. This has to be one of the most racist and ignorant comments I have ever read. You honestly think residential schools were trying to cure violence in indigenous communities? Trying to pass residential schools off as some failed attempt to save children from violence is revisionism at its best.

            The violence and “baggage” you talk about is a result of the trauma and injustices caused by the abuse people suffered in residential schools. You are witnessing the effects of generational trauma not the failed objective of residential schools.

            Leave the north. Especially if you are an educator. We don’t need people like you influencing the next generation into believing the problems in their lives are from their culture colonialism tried to destroy and not the destructive nature of colonialism.

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            • Posted by We Can’t Say This on

              The TRC heard numerous testimonies of attendees who did not provide negative evidence about their experiences at the school. There are many people who viewed the education and skills learned as essential for their success. It doesn’t take a lot of time to read the intention of these schools was assimilation through education via the flawed idea of removing children from their culture. The intention was not murder and abuse of a civilization. The quotes are in this very comment section and speak to this if you read beyond one-liners taken out of context from Duncan Campbell and politicians of that era. Conflating these people with Hitler is child-like and aims for emotional reactions rather than genuine discussions on how to regard these schools and their legacies.
              .
              If there is no truth, there is no reconciliation. Black and white thinking about these schools is over simplistic at best, and untruthful revisionism at worst.

            • Posted by Educator on

              Dear ‘you failed critical thinking’ does the above comment make you uncomfortable? Good, learn to sit in your discomfort, let this be a place of learning for you

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      • Posted by Still cultural genocide though on

        It does not need to be murderous to fit the definition of cultural genocide. It suffices to prove the intent to destroy a culture, which the quote you provided implies quite starkly.

        It would take a great deal of disingenuity or proof to the contrary to suggest a different implication than the one that says Campbell wanted to destroy FNMI culture and way of life because he believed they could not stand alone and needed a bail out. Hardly a reasonable train of thought and yes I do judge this because it’s not anachronistic to do so. People back then called this out for what it was and were either sidelined or ignored. It was wrong then, it’s still wrong now.

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        • Posted by Meaning Matters on

          This is the exact problem with this discussion, we appear to be talking about two different things.

          Can you show me in the story where the term ‘cultural genocide’ is used? That is a different conversation than one about ‘genocide:’ “the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.”

          • Posted by Meanings derive from context on

            It’s been a conversation that’s been going on for literally 7 years so if you want to be semantic and literal about words without engaging with the entire process, then no, I won’t do any homework for you.

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            • Posted by Mayor Quimby on

              When someone says “I don’t won’t do your homework for you” I always read it as an admission that they have exhausted their intellectual resources.

              To your point, context also can not be discerned without meaning. It’s not as simple as suggesting that meanings spontaneously emerge from a given context.

              Lazy answer.

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        • Posted by nope on

          There is no international law covering cultural genocide. it is not genocide in a legal sense. it was proposed but ultimately left out of undrip also. cultural genocide does not equal genocide in international law. stop conflating cultural genocide with genocide. words matter.

        • Posted by Can’t Call a Beaver a Yam on

          As mentioned in a previous comment, the United Nations’ definition of genocide specifically says, “cultural destruction does not suffice”. So all the commenters here saying it’s irrefutable that it’s genocide, but while actually talking about the non-recognized term of cultural genocide, really don’t understand what they’re talking about.
          .
          Did a lot of bad things happen? Yes. Was it genocide? No.

  5. Posted by Forever Amazed on

    So what if the House of Commons says it was genocide. I conclude it was not. I do not deny the existence of the residential schools. I do not deny there were deaths or that the schools were not a pleasant place to be at. I do question a lot of the conclusions and the existence of mass graves. Where is the DNA proof? It was the law of the land at the time. I (nor any of my family) had anything to do with the schools and therefore have nothing to apologize for or to reconcile.

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    • Posted by Semantics and Histrionics on

      Leah Gazan has a BA in Drama. Not sure if that qualifies her to render judgement on the use of the term, but it exponentially raises the possibility that she would.

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  6. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Correct me if I am wrong but a genocide is by definition “the intentional destruction of a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group—in whole or in part.” While the residential school program can be fairly and accurately negatively described as many things; I somehow doubt that the program as intended and implemented included deliberate and planned eradication of all or part of the indigenous peoples in Canada.

    • Posted by The comments section already corrected you on

      Correct you if you’re wrong? There’s already plenty of information in this comments section correcting you, and yet you ask people to correct you if you’re wrong?

      No man. Your wrong, you’ve already been corrected and that should have stopped you from saying your wrong comment… and yet here you are being wrong anyway.

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      • Posted by iRoll on

        If only it were as easy as planting your little flag and saying “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Cute, but lazy and unimpressive. Is that really all you’ve got?

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        • Posted by And yet was I wrong on

          Enlighten me. This comments section is full of people being helpful, I’ve chosen to be the heel. If all the other comments that answer this question that came afterwards, demonstrating that the original commentator didn’t read, then prove me wrong.

          That’s right, you can’t. Keyboard warriors unite, broseph.

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    • Posted by valid on

      You’re not wrong. a layperson can see that this does not meet the UN definition of genocide by reading the UN website materials.

  7. Posted by Let B Serious on

    Since the Commons declared this a genocide when will the UN launch its investigation? When can we expect a trial at the Hague?

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