Commissioned by the Canadian government in 2016, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls delivered its final 1,200-page report last week. The report contains many important recommendations to end endemic levels of violence directed at Indigenous women, but it is also noteworthy at the international level for its conclusion that Canada is internationally responsible for perpetrating a genocide against Indigenous peoples. This particular conclusion has reverberated across the country and made headlines around the world (see eg here, here, and here).
The creation of the National Inquiry was a 2015 campaign promise of the Trudeau Government which had pledged to renew Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. The initiative was a response to mounting pressure from Indigenous organizations and civil society and came on the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which documented multiple instances of violence and damages inflicted on Indigenous peoples.
The new public inquiry was created with the mandate to report on all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls. The Government appointed five distinguished Indigenous jurists and advocates as Commissioners to undertake this momentous task, including retired Provincial Court Judge Marion Buller. The Commissioners’ decision to ground their findings in an international law framework really sets it apart from other public inquiries, and the conclusion that Canada’s policies amount to genocide triggering its international responsibility is hetero unprecedented. The legal analysis supporting that conclusion is presented in a supplementary report which was elaborated in consultation with three international legal scholars and lawyers with expertise in the field, namely Professor Fannie Lafontaine, Amanda Ghahremani and Catherine Savard.
Considerable effort is spent arguing on the contours of the genocide definition and its constitutive elements. While the report presents a defendable argument in that regard, it unfortunately falls short when it comes to establishing Canada’s international responsibility. This post will briefly outline the National Inquiry’s legal conclusions and offer a critical analysis of the methodology (or lack thereof) regarding issues of state responsibility. Read the rest of this entry…