Chief commissioner Marion Buller, left to right, and commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Qajaq Robinson and Michele Audette prepare the final report to give to the government at the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Que., on Monday, June 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Genocide against Indigenous women and girls ‘obvious,’ says chief commissioner

Andrew Scheer rejection that conclusion from the inquiry

The chief commissioner of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls says it’s “pretty obvious” that the tragedies amount to a genocide.

Marion Buller made the remarks in a speech Monday at a conference on the topic held by the University of British Columbia in collaboration with Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“We made what to me is pretty obvious, but it’s turned out to be controversial, finding of fact that the disappearances, murders and violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls … is genocide,” she said

The inquiry’s final report, released last week, detailed a deliberate and persistent pattern of abuses against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited people and LGBT individuals, which it said can only be described as a genocide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not directly answered questions about whether he agrees with this finding, but has said he accepts it. Other politicians, including Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, have rejected the conclusion.

VIDEO: Trudeau accepts inquiry finding of genocide, but says focus must be on response

Buller said in an interview that she welcomes the national discussion about the meaning of genocide.

“I think once people get over, maybe, the shock of the word genocide, I think we’re going to move then onto focusing more on our calls for justice, but we have to have these awful, difficult conversations to start with.”

She said there is more than one type of genocide.

“The type of genocide we’re talking about in our report is generations of underfunding, generations of marginalization, generations of moving communities to new locations without consent, generations of taking children without consent,” she said.

“As my colleague, commissioner (Qajaq) Robinson said, it’s death by a million paper cuts.”

VIDEO: Andrew Scheer says Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women not a ‘genocide’

The prime minister has promised a national plan to address the issues raised in the report. Buller said she’s not worried about the possibility that the plan won’t be ready until after the next federal election.

“I don’t think something like a national action plan should be rushed, because there has to be the proper participation of Indigenous people, Indigenous organizations,” she said.

Buller said she’s pleased with Trudeau’s response so far and relieved that he accepts all of the inquiry’s findings of fact.

“That means he believes the families and survivors and their truths,” she said. “So, I think it’s maybe one or two positive steps forward. I just hope over the course of the election we don’t take steps backward.”

Buller also said she isn’t concerned that a new government won’t accept the finding of genocide. There are activists, survivors and family members across Canada who are not going to allow the report to sit on a shelf gathering dust, she said.

“Whoever forms the government is going to be facing a lot of, I think the polite word would be encouragement from all those groups.”

Buller, who was the first female First Nations judge in B.C., also took aim at the media in her speech, accusing some pundits of not actually reading it.

In the interview, she said she was disappointed no media outlet applied for standing to give evidence during the inquiry because the media play a role in how Indigenous women are perceived.

“I thought, and I hoped, that the media would want to take an active part in what we were doing, and they would want to be able to do some self-examination as well,” she said.

The two-day conference hosted by UBC’s First Nations House of Learning is set to address issues of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

Buller told the audience of mostly women and Indigenous family members who have lost loved ones that the report has started difficult conversations, but Canada must know the truth before it can achieve reconciliation.

Commissioners heard family members and survivors share heartbreaking stories of love, loss and grief, she said, but they also heard stories of courage and resistance against colonialism.

Laura Kane , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Several local schools took part in Student Vote for the B.C. election. Black Press file photo
Students in Student Vote support NDP in Comox-Courtenay

Unlike actual vote, students in Mid Island-Pacific Rim back Greens

Father Charles has devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats and has inspired generations of volunteers to work together to protect and preserve forests and rivers. Photo submitted
Valley environmentalist and Catholic priest-hermit Father Charles Brandt passes away

He devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks near Comox

A Comox Valley family had a meeting with a humpback whale family… Continue reading

Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.
Vancouver Island flower farmers were blooming as the pandemic wilted everything else

Floriculturists saw increased subscriptions as fresh flowers became a ‘sight for sore eyes’ during isolation

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Most Read