“I believe that the tragedy that has happened to this vulnerable section of our society is its own thing. I don’t believe it falls into the category, to the definition of genocide,” he told The Roy Green Show on Global News Radio on Saturday.
He added that the issue “stands on its own as something that politicians need to take seriously.”
Scheer’s comments come after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he accepted the conclusions of a national inquiry that referred to the violence against First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls as a form of “genocide” and a crisis “centuries in the making.”
Released Monday, the final report from the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls called for significant change through 231 recommendations to help end violence against female and LGBTQ2 Indigenous people.
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Trudeau said his government would study the report and launch a plan to address the issues. In addressing the report’s findings for the first time on Monday, however, Trudeau did not use the word genocide despite calls to do so.
The Conservatives said they would hold the government accountable on Indigenous issues, and promised to implement a national plan to advance reconciliation if elected.
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Scheer told Roy Green on Saturday that the inquiry has put forward some recommendations that “we can make progress on” to protect those at risk.
The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as a list of actions “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
Those acts include murder, serious mental and physical harm, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” imposing measures to prevent births and forcibly transferring children out of a group.
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Naomi Sayers, an Indigenous lawyer based in Ontario, told Global News earlier this week that Canada’s record on the treatment of Indigenous Peoples is indisputable.
“You can’t debate that fact,” she said. “Canada has a history of legislating Indigenous communities, Indigenous bodies and Indigenous systems to essentially annihilate them, do away with them and to erase them forever.”
Sayers noted this has happened through both past and present Canadian governments, through things such as the enactment of the Indian Act, residential schools, and over-policing of Indigenous communities.
With files from The Canadian Press and Maham Abedi, Global News