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?