Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says the government would not oppose an international examination probing the allegation of genocide made in the final report of the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Bennett said there’s “clear evidence” that successive Canadian governments took actions that killed Indigenous people and that the government would support the call from the Organization of American States (OAS) last week to probe the matter.
“Absolutely,” she said when asked specifically whether the government would support the OAS creating a body to look into the allegation of genocide.
“We welcome a rules-based international system, and so once this report has been tabled, if anybody wants to come and look, we believe we are putting in place the concrete actions to stop this national tragedy,” Bennett said.
The OAS wants the Canadian government’s support to create an independent panel of experts to examine the evidence.
This follows a similar model the organization has put in place to probe human rights abuses in places like Nicaragua.
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The MMIWG report was presented last week following roughly three years of work gathering the stories of 2,300 family members of Indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered.
It included 200 recommendations for all levels of government to address the tragedy.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to create a national action plan to implement some of those recommendations, but it is not yet clear which ones.
READ MORE: Why ‘genocide’ was used in the MMIWG report
He has also said the government accepts the findings in the report regarding allegations of genocide but has not said whether he believes the allegation meets the legal threshold.
When asked whether she believes Canadian government institutions such as the RCMP are complicit in the alleged genocide, Bennett said that it is clear there have been successive actions taken by the government to kill and harm Indigenous people in this country.
Those actions take a range of forms, she added.
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“I think that, right from the beginning, when there was a decision by the first prime minister to starve the Indians, absolutely,” Bennett said. “There are actions, direct actions, that were taken and then actions that were not taken when the truth was revealed and people were dying.”
She noted that in some cases, the government knew the effect its policies were having.
“From the Indian Act to residential schools, where government took actions that were killing people, there is very clear evidence throughout government policies that governments knew what was happening,” she said. “Sometimes, they caused it, but sometimes they found out and then did nothing about it.”
Neither situation excuses the government of responsibility, Bennett continued.
“I take it that the scholars are going to debate this,” she said of the use of the term genocide in the report.
“We have to act on the findings in this report and we will do that and we are doing that.”