At the risk of sounding racist … oh what the hell, I can just play my J-card – ex-Tory MP Bernard Valcourt was dead right to object to the MMIWG enquiry calling the murder of indigenous women “the Canadian genocide”.

We’re all entitled to use words any way we like, provided we’re clear about our redefinitions. But to place the murder of these women under the same category as the Shoah is to place the Shoah under the same category as the murder of these women. And that, to the ear of many Jewish Canadians, is just to trivialize the Shoah. The Enquiry makes it clear that the predation of indigenous women has been systemic. But it’s been neither systematic nor wholesale. The Shoah was both.

But hold on. To say that equating the two cases trivializes the Shoah in turn trivializes the murder of these women. And that’s just the problem, isn’t it? Deploying our words for their emotional impact rather than their material referents does precisely what it’s intended to do. It renders critical discourse impossible.

By whatever name it may be called, what happened to these women is a terrible thing. But what does it say about any critical discourse about the matter that I had to add that sentence?


Categories: Editorials

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2 replies

  1. I understand the philosophical point you are making here about the use of language to push emotional buttons, buttons which could be labelled “QED so comments are closed.” However, you could have dealt with the language issue another way.

    First we have to distinguish between those women who were murdered and those missing, as we don’t know what happened to the missing ones. To focus now only on the murdered women, if there was a genocide there have to be both victims and genocidal murderers. In the Shoah we can identify the murderers as the Nazis and their collaborators in other European countries. So who were the genocidal killers of these murdered women?

    According to the RCMP, who are most often called to investigate the murders when the bodies are found, the murderers in some 70% of cases were known by the victims, and usually, the murderers were aboriginal men. If we believe the RCMP there would be no reason to create this Commission in the first place.

    The Commission said that these statistics were “flawed”, but never identified who the murderers were. Only by using “genocide” as the cause of these multiple deaths could the Commission avoid having to identify the individual murderers, even if many of them had been identified and arrested by the RCMP. So now we have an official finding, endorsed by the Prime Minister, that there was a genocide with no human killers, just a consequence of colonialist attitudes held by governments and police forces. Thus, all these women were murdered by an evil colonial culture.

    Presumably, if that colonial culture is changed to achieve reconciliation there will be no more or very few more such murders. Let’s hope the Commission is right.


    • Andrew Roman is dead right, of course. The details to which he refers are being suppressed in the media, or at least ignored, in order to fan the narrative that this is all about white men killing indigenous women. And for what? The fun of it? The details suggest otherwise. But my beef, ro repeat, is with the notion of genocide, which, even if the aforementioned narrative were true, it still wouldn’t be. Even if these women were being killed BECAUSE of their race, it still wouldn’t be genocide. To suppose otherwise – to suppose than any racially motivating killing is genocide – would render the term pretty mch redundant. We need it to mean the attempt to ELIMINATE a people.

      Liked by 2 people

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