48th Annual Conference of the Canadian Council on International Law

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The members of the CPIJ will present a panel on October 25.

On June 3, 2019, after three years of hearing thousands of stories of systemic and structural violence, Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reached the “inescapable conclusion” that Canada as a state is responsible for an ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples. The Inquiry found that this ongoing genocide constitutes a root cause of the violence that is currently being perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls. Colonial violence is ongoing, not just a legacy of the past.

The Inquiry’s final report is supplemented by a legal analysis on genocide, which specifically tackles this issue. It upholds that the true nature of genocide is distinct from the popular notions of it. Colonial genocide, i.e., genocide perpetrated in a colonial context, is a slow-moving process, unlike the traditional paradigms of genocide that are the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. A gendered lens allows to adequately frame the elements of genocide, and sheds light on the gender-specific impacts it has on women and girls.

This panel will discuss the place of colonial genocide in international law in the wake of the National Inquiry’s works, and foster discussions on the active decolonization process that is needed in order to address Canada’s ongoing colonial genocide.

Amanda Ghahremani, International Lawyer & Consultant

Catherine Savard, Canadian Partnership for International Justice
Fannie Lafontaine, Université Laval
Pamela Palmater, Ryerson University
Michèle Audette, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Look up the program.

CPIJ Members Contribute to National Inquiry into MMIWG’s Legal Analysis on genocide

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5 June 2019 – On Monday, the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was made public at an official ceremony held in Ottawa. This report, which affirms that First Nations, Inuit and Metis are victims of genocide, is supported by a supplementary legal analysis produced to deal specifically with this issue.

The use of the term “genocide,” entailing far-reaching legal and political consequences, had a resounding impact within Canada and abroad. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted the use of the term “genocide” during the 2019 Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver. He had also pronounced that word the day before in his opening speech at this conference, but without officially accepting it.

The legal analysis supporting the MMIWG’s findings was elaborated in consultation with international legal scholars and lawyers with expertise on genocide and international crimes, including CPIJ members, namely Fannie Lafontaine (CPIJ Director), Amanda Ghahremani (Co-Researcher) and Catherine Savard (Assistant Coordinator).

The supplementary legal analysis on genocide contains the National Inquiry’s legal basis for determining that Canada has committed genocide against Indigenous Peoples. This analysis focuses on the responsibility of Canada as a state, and not on the responsibility of individuals. It explains that Canada’s genocide of Indigenous peoples was perpetrated through colonial structures and policies maintained by the Canadian state through centuries up until now. More precisely, it is the Canadian government’s actions and omissions, taken as a whole, that constitute this genocide. They imply the responsibility of the Canadian state under international law.

This MMIWG’s legal analysis insists on the fact that, contrary to the popular understanding, genocide encompasses both lethal and non-lethal acts, including acts of “slow death”, i.e., not leading to immediate death. In the Canadian colonial context, the intent to destroy Indigenous peoples was implemented gradually and intermittently through various policies targeting the distinct Indigenous communities. These policies compromised Indigenous peoples’ rights to life and security, as well as numerous economic, social and cultural rights. If such non-lethal acts differ from the traditional reductionist narrative on genocide, which is based on the Holocaust model, they are nonetheless included in the definition enshrined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The MMIWG analysis concludes that the Canadian violation of international law will continue as long as genocidal acts continue to occur and that destructive policies are upheld by the Canadian government. Under international law, Canada has a duty to remedy the harm caused, but first, it must put an end to the persistent manifestations of violence and oppression of Indigenous peoples. Ending this genocide and providing appropriate remedies requires the implementation of an honest and dynamic process to decolonize and indigenize Canadian structures, institutions, laws and policies, thus involving the full and timely implementation of the MMIWG Calls for Justice.

The MMIWG is a National Commission of Inquiry set up in September 2016 and charged with the mandate to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals in Canada. Its work led to the conclusion that Canada’s genocide of Indigenous peoples constitutes a root cause of the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals.

The supplementary legal analysis of genocide is available in English and French.

The MMIWG’s Final Report is available here:

* The acronym 2SLGBTQQIA refers to two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual persons.

Warnings from the Rohingya with the Honourable Bob Rae and Payam Akhavan

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The Montreal Holocaust Museum hosted the event.

In December 2017, the U.N. stated that the world “cannot rule out the possibility that acts of genocide have been committed” against the Rohingya in Myanmar. What can be done about these ongoing human rights violations, and how can we help the Rohingya?

Hear Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, the Honourable Bob Rae in conversation with Payam Akhavan, Professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Law, as they discuss these important questions.