What does it mean to call Canada's treatment of Indigenous women a 'genocide'


The debate over the unique nature of the crime of genocide has become part of Canada's political dialogue going into the fall election campaign. In its final report, released this week, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls described those thousands of victims as casualties of a "genocide." Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adopted that language as his own, telling an audience in Vancouver that "we accept the findings of the commissioners that it was genocide."

The international consequences of attaching such a label to one's own country on the international stage could be heavy and long-lasting. They might be felt the next time that Canada tries to press another country on its human rights record, or tries to uphold its own image as a nation where there is rule of law. The reputational damage alone is a cost that most countries would want to avoid.

"If we say everything is a genocide, then nothing is a genocide" says Irwin Cotler.

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