By some counts, over 4,000 Indigenous, Native American women and LGBT+ people have either been murdered or “disappeared” in recent decades in Canada. However, after an official government investigation released a report, it seems likely that that number is likely much higher. The report labels this trend an ongoing “Canadian genocide” borne from European colonialism.
Commissioned in 2016, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee officially released its thorough, in-depth report documenting the widespread victimization taking place against Indigenous women and LGBT+ individuals. Statements taken from more than 2,300 people helped to assemble the more than 1,200 page report.
The findings state that “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies” have long enabled this continuing tragedy, one rooted in silence, institutional neglect and outright oppression.
The inquiry’s investigators say thousands of Indigenous women have been killed or gone missing — and all too frequently, law enforcement fails to follow through on criminal probes. The report notes that although they subpoenaed almost 479 records from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other agencies, the committee was often met with a lack of cooperation and eventually only obtained 174 such records, many of which were heavily redacted. Additionally, it notes that although the RCMP says that the majority of perpetrators behind these crimes are Indigenous men, their lack of proper criminal investigations and record keeping makes this claim extremely flimsy.
Unaddressed and ignored violence against Indigenous women is just one form of crime and injustice documented by the inquiry. It also uncovered systematic acts of oppression that include forced and coerced sterilization of Indigenous mothers, economic marginalization, such as mass homelessness and food insecurity, and a historical pattern of political exclusion.
The report also documents an apparently systematic effort by Canada’s educational system to undermine the truths of colonial trauma inflicted against Indigenous peoples as well as erasing Indigenous culture and supplanting it with Western teachings.
The issues fleshed out by the commission are numerous and complex and, naturally, require a variety of long-term solutions. The report details 231 specific actions that the Canadian government could pursue to make amends to and, going forward, to protect Indigenous women: These include but are not limited to law enforcement reform to address racism and LGBT+ bias, greater access to health care in Indigenous communities, a more inclusive educational curriculum and the official adoption of Indigenous languages.
It speaks volumes that this inquiry was able to unearth the breadth of this “Canadian genocide” of Indigenous women and LGBT+ people in just two and a half years. It was a process that, if it had not been needlessly hastened by Canadian courts and an institutional lack of general cooperation, would have undoubtedly come closer to exposing an even more accurate understanding of the incredible trials Indigenous communities in Canada still endure — in this supposedly post-colonial age.
This article was originally published on Care2 on June 12, 2019.