House of Commons recognizes Canada’s residential schools as act of genocide

Click to play video: '‘Communities need to know where their children are’: Grueling detective work to identify who is in suspected unmarked Indigenous graves'
‘Communities need to know where their children are’: Grueling detective work to identify who is in suspected unmarked Indigenous graves
WATCH: Across Canada, a quiet effort is underway to uncover the identities of Indigenous children who might be in suspected graves found on the former grounds of Canada’s residential schools. Researchers are using science, archives, and discussions with knowledge keepers to name the children who lost their lives at these institutions. For The New Reality, Krista Hessey travelled to Manitoba to show us the grueling detective work that goes on alongside the discovery of unmarked graves – and to meet one community that is trying to unlock clues about what happened to their missing children – Oct 22, 2022

The House of Commons has recognized Canada’s Indian Residential School system as an act of genocide.

On Thursday, the motion brought forward by NDP MP Leah Gazan was adopted by unanimous consent.

“Today I lift up survivors, families, and communities who have sacrificed so much in order for people across Canada to know the truth; that what happened in residential schools was a genocide. I’m grateful to parliamentarians who unanimously passed my motion recognizing the truth of Canada’s history,” Gazan said in a news release.

“I look forward to working with the government to ensure the will of Parliament is honoured by formally recognizing residential schools as a genocide. Survivors deserve no less.”

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Unanimous consent motions do not receive formal votes, and do not always reflect official government policies. Rather, they are adopted only if no MP voices opposition to them when the motion is moved.

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The motion reflects the will of the House of Commons, rather than the government itself.

In July, Pope Francis said the abuses Indigenous Peoples faced while being forced to attend residential schools amounted to genocide.

Gazan tried once last year and again this summer to get unanimous consent from MPs for the recognition, but it did not previously pass.

“Having the experience of residential school survivors continually up for debate is another act of violence,” she said in August.

Click to play video: '‘Reservation Dogs’ star Tamara Podemski on Indigenous representation in media'
‘Reservation Dogs’ star Tamara Podemski on Indigenous representation in media

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission referred to residential schools as a form of cultural genocide when it released its final report in 2015. But since then, a number of Indigenous groups have amended this to say it was genocide.

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In 2015, a 4,000-page report by the commission detailed the harsh mistreatment at the schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths at the institutions.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls also concluded in its final report that violence against women and girls is a form of genocide.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were involuntarily taken to attend residential schools in Canada, according to the federal government.

More than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

Federally, there were 140 residential schools operated between 1831 and 1998. The last school closed less than 25 years ago.

— with files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly & The Canadian Press

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