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OAS offers Canada a panel of experts to probe ‘genocide’

June 4, 2019
Indigenous youth present the final report to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Quebec., on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — The head of the Organization of American States said Tuesday he would like to create a panel of experts to investigate the disappearances and deaths of indigenous women in Canada, a problem that a Canadian report this week described as “genocide.”

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro made the offer in a letter to Canada’s foreign minister and tweeted that it is necessary to “clarify these allegations and achieve justice.”

Almagro was responding to a Canadian public inquiry report issued Monday that said the problem is so serious it amounts to “genocide.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he accepts the finding that it was genocide and plans on coming up with a national action plan.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police report before the inquiry was formed reviewed cases from 1980 to 2013 and found 1,181 First Nations women fell into the missing or murdered category — almost double earlier estimates. Of those women, 164 were missing and 1,017 murdered.

Trudeau said Monday the disappearances and deaths of indigenous women in Canada have too often been treated as a low priority or ignored.

Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the Canadian public inquiry, said people often think of genocide as the Holocaust or the mass killings in Africa and elsewhere. She described the Canadian “genocide” as the death by a million paper cuts for generations.

The inquiry report said police and the justice system need to acknowledge that the historical and current relationship with Indigenous people has been largely defined by “colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination, and fundamental cultural and societal differences.”

Almagro noted Canada’s powerful voice around the world on human rights but said experts from the outside could “clarify the accusation and denunciation of genocide in your country.”

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said they have received the letter from Almagro and will provide a response in due course.

“Our government is committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy,” Austen said in an email.

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