macdonald and hudson on genocide in canadian residential schools


David MacDonald and Graham Hudson, ‘The Genocide Question and Indian Residential Schools in Canada’, Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique 45, 2 (2012).

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been investigating the array of crimes committed in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. Genocide is being invoked with increasing regularity to describe the crimes inflicted within the IRS system, the intent behind those crimes, and the legacies that have flowed from them. We ask the following questions. Did Canada commit genocide against Aboriginal peoples by attempting to forcibly assimilate them in residential schools? How does the UN Genocide Convention help interpret genocide claims? If not genocide, what other descriptors are more appropriate? Our position might be described as “fence sitting”: whether genocide was committed cannot be definitively settled at this time. This has to do with polyvalent interpretations of the term, coupled with the growing body of evidence the TRC is building up. We favour using the term cultural genocide as a “ground floor” and a means to legally and morally interpret the IRS system.

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