Historians explain opposition to genocide’s accusations against Canada regarding the treatment of indigenous peoples


The open letter states that there is no basis for the Canadian Historical Society’s claim that all Canadian historians support the genocide claim.

The accusations of genocide against Canada in the treatment of indigenous peoples are “virtually wrong,” said a historian and professor of international studies at the University of Toronto’s Mank Global Affairs and Public Policy School.

“A widespread systematic and deliberate killing is an absolutely essential element of genocide, and in this case it does not exist,” Jack Cunningham said in an interview.

“It’s important to understand where we came from and what our actual wrongdoing is historically. I say that genocide’s responsibility undermines Canada’s nation-state legitimacy. I think. “

Cunningham is one of more than 50 historians and scholars who recently signed a letter stating “grave disappointment” in a statement released by the Canadian Historical Society (CHA) on Canada Day.

The statement argued that there was a “wide consensus” among history experts that Canadian history “completely justifies the use of the word genocide.”

Historian open letters published in the Canadian literary magazine and Le Journal de Montreal challenge the consensus claim.

“The CHA Council is” fully clear “that the” existing historical scholarship “was a genocide treatment of Native Canadians and that there was a” broad academic consensus “on evidence of” genocide intent. ” I am doing it. ” The CHA Council also attacks the profession, saying historians have turned a blind eye to the tragedy that marked Canadian history, “reads the letter.

“There is no basis for such a claim intended to represent the views of all Canadian professional historians.”

Epoch Times Photo
Jack Cunningham, Professor of International Studies at the University of Toronto’s Muck of Global Affairs & Public Policy. (Courtesy of Jack Cunningham)

“Political statement”

Whitney Lackenbauer, a professor of history at Trent University who also signed the letter, said a statement from CHA, representing 650 professional historians nationwide, “strives to emphasize aspects of colonial violence and assimilation. It’s a very powerful and candid story. “

“This is a very strong political statement by a selected number of leaders of the Historical Society,” he told The Epoch Times.

“The political purpose of this is to set a fake label that everyone thinks this way, and that everyone must think that it is in good condition in this historical profession. did.”

Lackenbauer points to the work of prominent historian JR Miller, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Saskatchewan, and Donald B. Smith, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Calgary. Between indigenous people and Canadians.

“They have been writing on this issue since the 1970s, claiming that the provinces of Canada are guilty of assimilation and coercion against indigenous peoples, but have a very interesting argument saying they are not genocide. And what [CHA’s statement] What we’re trying to do is make sure there’s no space for those voices, “he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Whitney Lackenbauer, Professor of History at Trent University. (Courtesy of Whitney Luckenbauer)

In October 2019, Miller and Smith co-authored a review of a book by political science professor David B. McDonald’s entitled “The Awakening of the Sleeping Giant: Genocide, Indian Housing Schools, and the Challenge of Reconciliation” by McDonald’s. I refuted Genocide’s claim.

“Critical readers must ask if” genocide “is really a term for Canadian indigenous policy. The Genocide Convention defines it as “an act intended to destroy the country, ethnicity, race, or religious group itself, in whole or in part.” In order for a destructive state action to be considered genocide, both intent and action must exist. The problem with Canada is that while government policies are often terribly destructive to indigenous peoples, those actions have never been taken with the intention of destroying indigenous peoples, “they said. I am writing.

“The policy goals we currently consider scary were compulsory attendance at housing schools, restricted mobility, restructuring of economic and governing systems, and restraint of language and spiritual practice, but in eradicating indigenous peoples. There wasn’t. Canada first tried to persuade the indigenous people to live, work, worship, and rule like Euro-Canadians. If Canada wanted to destroy them, they. Wouldn’t have put so much effort into trying to turn him into a Euro-Canadian. “

Historian’s stance refuted

When asked to comment on his position as a professor of history, CHA President Stephen High referred to an open letter signed by a group he described as “an indigenous historian chairing the research committee” and said, “This discussion Talking about what’s wrong. “

A letter signed by five research chairs or directors of Canadian universities’ indigenous studies and two other professors refutes historians’ arguments in their open letters.

“A recent interpretation of Canadian history, published by several scholars who are the signatories of the open letter. [i.e. this letter], Claims that the goal of federal indigenous policy was to eliminate indigenous peoples administratively, culturally and physically. This is a genocide, “the letter says.

“The CHA Council statement is based on its recent historic scholarships, as the truth about housing schools affecting indigenous child welfare and health, and other slaughter policies and practices to eradicate indigenous peoples. Specially designed for, shaped by the times we live in. Destroy Metis, the Inuit people, and their country. “

The letter further states: “As the CHA statement made clear,’the intent of the slaughter is well established in archaeology …’ and’there is widespread consensus among historical experts on this point’and’existing history. Extensive written and oral testimony of scholarship, government archives, missionary records, archaeological studies, and housing school survivors, scoops of the 1960s, and families of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. This conclusion is fully clarified based on the research.

Danger of misrepresenting history

Christopher Damitt, another signer of an open letter against CHA’s position and a professor of history at Trent University, said it was important to trust Canadians to tell the truth to their institutions and historians. Yes, the CHA statement states that it could threaten its credibility.

“Looking at the words of the CHA statement, it is expressed in this theoretically politicized jargon. Adopting the perspective suggested by the language, it gives you all the answers and settler colonialism. Adopting this perspective of interpreting the past through the lens of the, you already have your answer, so you need little research to make up for you, “he said.

“CHA presents a kind of single unified truth to Canadians. I think it’s dangerous because it’s incorrect.”

Academic freedom is also at stake, Dummitt pointed out. This statement is “almost a threat” to potential new historians and history students who may find that their work is inconsistent with CHA’s claims.

“But now they will face the fact that their major institution said,’No, no, this is the answer,'” he said. “Can they reasonably do research? Can they expect to get a job or a scholarship … what if they themselves come to different conclusions?”

Epoch Times Photo
Christopher Damitt, Professor of History at Trent University. (Provided by Christopher Damitt)

“Read widely”

Lackenbauer states that much of the debate over the reports produced by the Truth Commission (TRC) has been “hijacked” over the word “genocide.”

“Unfortunately, many Canadian media have focused their discussions on general stories and general questions about genocide, rather than looking at the individual elements and individual action calls in the report. This is a very specific and very powerful practice. The steps we can take to create a reconciliation, “he said.

“I don’t think everyone needs to agree to the genocide label to answer these subpoenas.”

Cunningham advises Canadians to consider TRC reports as “just one document with a clear perspective” and to be familiar with historical records and academic literature for a balanced view. ..

“There have been many journal articles that have caused this controversy in the last few moments and are worth a look,” he said. “So I would say I read extensively about the controversy before giving an opinion on it.”

Isaac Theo