NDP MP Leah Gazan rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

NDP MP Leah Gazan rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

NDP calls on Ottawa to recognize residential schools as genocide

MP wants institutions acknowledged as the deliberate, systematic destruction of a cultural group

New Democrats are calling on the federal government to recognize the residential schools policy pursued by Canada for over a century as genocide against Indigenous Peoples.

In a motion to be tabled in the House of Commonson Thursday, NDP MP Leah Gazan is asking fellow lawmakers to unanimously acknowledge the institutions’ history as the deliberate, systematic destruction of a cultural group.

“There is no reconciliation without truth. And what happened in residential school was clearly an act of genocide, with impacts that reverberate (in) our families’ community today,” said Gazan, MP for Winnipeg Centre and a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation in Saskatchewan.

“In honour of all the children who never returned home, in honour of all the mothers and fathers and families that were left to suffer in grief, we must end the debate.”

Gazan’s demand comes in response to last month’s news that ground-penetrating radar detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

The government-sponsored, church-run institutions operated in Canada for more than 110 years and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ruled in 2015 they constituted a “cultural genocide.”

Gazan questioned the sufficiency of the commission’s determination, laid out in a report that followed seven years of hearings and testimony from thousands of witnesses.

“There is no legal definition in international law for cultural genocide. What happened at the residential schools was genocide, full stop,” she said, citing the United Nations convention against genocide.

Genocide comprises any one of the criteria laid out in the 1948 convention’s definition, and Gazan said Canada’s residential schools policy meets all five: killing members of a group, causing them serious physical or mental harm, placing them under conditions to destroy them, imposing measures to prevent births or forcibly transferring children to another group.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said Liberals “will look at the wording of the motion.”

She noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week he accepts the conclusion of the 2019 inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that “what happened amounts to genocide.”

At a news conference with Gazan on Wednesday morning, Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said denying an act of genocide would “belittle the history and the reality” of survivors of schools that continued to open into the 1970s.

“Residential school is not a historic thing that happened hundreds of years ago. It happened just yesterday,” he said. “My younger siblings attended residential school.”

Christian churches and the federal government launched the boarding schools in the 1880s and kept them going for more than a century, seeking to convert and assimilate Indigenous children, who suffered widespread physical and sexual abuse at the institutions. Thousands died in them.

The last one closed in Punnichy, Sask., in 1996.

A third-generation survivor, Dumas said churches also need to atone for their role. “I am very disappointed with the stance of the church for their silence.”

On Sunday in Rome, the Pope expressed his pain over the recent discovery by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation of the unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. But many Indigenous leaders have stated their disappointment and frustration over Pope Francis’s remarks, saying they fall short of an apology for the Catholic Church’s key part in the policy.

“Old wounds opened up. Our nation woke up,” said Gerry Shingoose, an elder and survivor who attended the Muscowequan Residential School in Saskatchewan for a decade starting in the early 1960s.

“I ask that each one of you bring that love forward to the survivors and their families, because when we were in school we never received that love. We received hate,” she said. “And no child should ever experience that.”

A vote on Gazan’s motion, which requires unanimous consent to pass, is expected Thursday.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

—Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Remains of 215 children found at former B.C. residential school an ‘unthinkable loss’

Federal PoliticsIndigenousresidential schools

Just Posted

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-month-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than five per cent of mass-marketing fraud is ever reported.
Tips to avoid scams targeting Vancouver Island seniors

In most cases, fraudsters impersonate an individual, business or agency seniors recognize and trust

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

Most Read