Yes. Canada is committing genocide.
The purpose of learning about this is not to shame Canadians, but rather to identify an unspeakable problem in order to stop it from continuing. The United Nations’ definition of genocide has 5 criteria and Canada currently fulfills all of them.
Current acts of genocide perpetrated by Canada are rooted in historical patterns connected to colonialism.
(a) Killing members of the group
In 1491 the Indigenous population of North America was 90-112 million. By 1630 disease brought by Europeans took 80-100 million Indigenous lives (Dobyns in Mann, 2011, p.108). In 1763, during the time of Pontiac’s resistance to British encroachment (Faculty of Law, University of Alberta), letters written between British officers Jeffery Amherst and Henry Bouquet detail the intent to infect Indigenous populations with smallpox infected blankets: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extricate this execrable race. I should be very glad your scheme for hunting them down by dogs could take effect…” (Amherst in Gill).
In 1749, the Governor of Nova Scotia, Edward Cornwallis, issued a Scalping Proclamation whereby his colonial government paid “a bounty to anyone who killed a Mi’kmaq adult or child in a bid drive them off mainland Nova Scotia.” (Tattrie, 2008).
In 1920 Canada made residential schools compulsory for Indigenous children; it was illegal not to attend (Walker 20019). In 1907 Dr. Peter Bryce reported criminal living conditions in residential schools with 42% death rates. In November 1907 his findings were put on the front page news of Canadian newspapers including the Evening [now called Ottawa] Citizen with the headline “Schools Aid White Plague.” Students with tuberculosis were kept together with healthy children, and students were starved and beaten death, and buried in graves behind the schools.
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
Over 150 000 Indigenous students were subjected to horrific torture including sexual, emotional and physical abuse in residential schools. In 2017 Canada fought against residential school survivors’ claims for compensation after being subjected to an electric chair, and forced to eat their own vomit at St. Anne’s Indian residential school in Fort Albany.
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
Canada is engaging in all five criteria, and it happens via bureaucracy and regular Canadians just “doing their jobs” not thinking about how their actions of apprehending children, sterilizing women in hospitals, and allocating funds inequitably constitutes genocide. We need to unpack the racist stereotypes that normalizes these practices. Breaking the historical pattern of genocide is our most important job as educators in Canada. Naming it is the first step.
Mann, C. (2011). 1491 New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. Vintage Books: New York.
Tattrie, J. (2008). Edward Cornwallis. Historica Canada.
Walker, J. (2009). The Indian Residential schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Parliament of Canada.