Part Two of our series, Canada’s Genocide, on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls addresses the healing process.
In our last story under the Human Rights category, we let readers know about the release of the Final Report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We explained the underlying issues and talked about their key finding that the way these women and their families were treated is known as Canada’s genocide. Then we reviewed how indigenous peoples were robbed of their rights to self-determination. This included depriving them of their rights to culture, health, security and justice.
This was an ambitious inquiry and its final report covers a lot of ground. In this posting, we will discuss the section on Healing Families, Communities and Nations. Then in the third posting of this series, we will cover the Calls for Justice, or recommendations, arising from the report. As a quick preview, we’ll share that these Calls for Justice are not framed as mere suggestions by the Inquiry. They are treated as legal imperatives. The inquiry makes it clear that they are mandatory, not optional.
For now, though, we will discuss the healing process. Healing is an important concept in indigenous cultures. They prefer the word “healing” to words like “treating” or “curing” because healing implies a natural process that flows at its own pace. We can nurture the healing process, but we can’t force it or try to control it. Healing lets nature take its course.
ceremonies, traditional knowledge and Elders
Often, the healing process took the form of ceremonies, traditional knowledge and interaction with Elders. These are the aspects of culture that paternalistic authorities tried to take away from them. They were supposed to be bad for them. Ironically, those “bad influences” are what they needed for relief from the damage inflicted on them in Canada’s genocide by white society.
Another method of healing mentioned in the report is commemoration. In European cultures, commemoration is about honoring someone we have lost. In indigenous cultures, commemoration means more than this. For them, commemoration is tied to healing, recovering identity, expressions of truth and, above all, change for the future. The inquiry calls this broader definition of commemoration “calling forth”. The inquiry has taken actions to call forth the victims including establishing a Legacy Archive to tell their stories through the arts.
This is all important, but the inquiry recognizes that the best way to achieve healing is to take practical steps to end the violence itself. They made a real effort to listen to lived and front line experiences. From that, it became obvious that the heart of the problem was racism. Colonialism is based on racist ideas.
Racism combines with other forms of prejudice
Racism is often exacerbated by other forms of prejudice. Indigenous people can also face even more abuse due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Other triggers can include bias against sex workers, addicts or the homeless. When someone has a combination of these traits, they intersect. That makes them even more vulnerable.
This takes us back to the four basic right we covered in our earlier post. The first of these rights is culture. Indigenous culture includes land, language and teachings. It entails access to families and community leaders. These cultural connections are vital during childhood. Canada’s genocide denied indigenous youth access to this, which constitutes cultural genocide.
Health is the second right identified by the inquiry. For healing, we need to recognize the link between mental health and physical health. Mental health is also vital to healthy families and communities. We have not provided adequate resources to deal with mental illness, addictions or suicide prevention. And so, indigenous people become more vulnerable.
Marginalization isn’t merely neglect.
The inquiry’s third identified right is security. We take away security rights through marginalization. This is planned. Marginalization is the goal of both colonialism and prejudice. It doesn’t merely happen through neglect. We marginalize indigenous people through poverty, lack of work and poor housing. We need to deliver adequate food and shelter to indigenous people. They also need our support for education and employment.
The fourth right is justice. Here, indigenous people see the justice system as hard to navigate. They don’t see the system as fair, inclusive or belonging to them. As we saw in the last post, law enforcement is weak and does not focus on crime prevention. Support for victims and survivors to navigate the justice bureaucracy is inadequate. We don’t take restorative justice or indigenous law into account. There’s no plan for rehabilitation or returning offenders to their communities.
Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people have a lot of healing to do. At least the inquiry acknowledged this and offered some approaches. What matters most though, is how to stop Canada’s genocide from ever happening again.
CALLS FOR JUSTICE
That is the focus of the Calls for Justice. They came up with a lot of them, so we will have to go over them in depth in our next two stories in this Canada’s Genocide series.
There is always more to learn if we dare to know.
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered indigenous Women and Girls
Human Rights Call to Action From UN Chief
Canada’s Genocide Part 3
Canada’s Genocide Part 4