The importance of a word: Taking the “culture” out of Canada’s “cultural genocide”

On April 26th, Paul Martin, Canada’s Prime Minister from 2003 to 2006, announced that he believed that Canada committed cultural genocide. He was referring to the systematic abuse perpetrated against Canada’s Indigenous populations by the residential school system that was meant to civilize these groups.

I strongly disagree with this assessment. Canada did not commit “cultural genocide.” Based on the definition of the crime provided by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canada committed genocide, not “cultural genocide.” The Genocide Convention is a widely accepted and respected international treaty. Its legitimacy has been acknowledged by 142 states via either accession, succession, or ratification. Furthermore, its terms have been used in practice to prosecute those suspected of the crime thus cementing the Convention’s status as a respect-worthy piece of international law.

According to the Convention, which was ratified by Canada in 1952, “genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

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