‘It was historic’: Motion to call residential schools genocide backed unanimously

Consultation with Indigenous people required to determine next steps, NDP member says.

Leah Gazan rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 21, 2021. The New Democrat member of Parliament says she will be holding the government accountable after her motion calling on the federal government to recognize Canada’s residential schools as genocide passed with unanimous consent. [The Canadian Press | Sean Kilpatrick]


A New Democrat member of Parliament says she will be holding the government accountable after her motion calling on the federal government to recognize Canada’s residential schools as genocide passed with unanimous consent.


“It was historic,” said Leah Gazan, who represents Winnipeg Centre. “We moved the pendulum in quite an extreme way.”


Her motion, introduced Thursday after question period, referred to the United Nations convention on genocide adopted in 1948. It defines genocide as killing members of a group, causing them serious physical or mental harm, placing them under conditions to destroy them, imposing measures to prevent births or forcibly transferring children to another group.


An emailed statement from the office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said residential schools are a part of a “shameful and racist colonial policy” that removed Indigenous children from their communities and denied them their families, language and culture.


“The government accepts the conclusion from the 2019 inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls that the residential system was genocide,” the statement said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said he accepts those findings.


Gazan introduced a similar motion last year, not long after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation announced possible unmarked graves were located at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. At that time, it did not receive unanimous consent.