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Support Info: If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419. Additional Health Support Information: Emotional, cultural, and professional support services are also available to Survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Services can be accessed on an individual, family, or group basis.” These & regional support phone numbers are found at https://nctr.ca/contact/survivors/ .
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Canada's unstated paternity policy amounts to genocide against Indigenous children
Canada commits genocide of 25,000
Indigenous children through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Canada's (AANDC) unstated paternity practice, yet relies on language --
unstated paternity -- that blames their mothers.
In 1943, Raphael Lemkin first coined the
term "genocide" and proceeded to define the term. Interestingly, what
many people do not know is that Lemkin defined genocide in cultural terms
rather than in terms of killing and mass murder. More specifically, Lemkin
defined genocide as having two stages. The first involves the denial of an
oppressed group's national pattern; and the second stage involves the
imposition of the oppressor's national pattern.
When the International Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United
Nations in December 1948, Lemkin's definition was included within the
definition. Article 2 of the Convention codifies five genocidal practices and
states that any of these acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part,
a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, constitutes genocide. These
five practices are: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or
mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group
conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole
or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and,
forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
That said, when I think about the issue of
unknown and unstated paternity and the Indian Act, specifically about AANDC's
unstated paternity policy, or internal practice or whatever they want to call
it, I realize it is in fact genocide. As many know, Indian status is delineated
into two subsections of section 6 of the Indian Act: subsection 6(1) and
subsection 6(2). While mothers registered under subsection 6(1) are able to
pass on status to their children in their own right, this is not the case with
mothers registered under subsection 6(2), also known as a weaker form of
status. In the event that a father’s signature is missing or not found on a
child’s birth registration form, the Registrar of AANDC assumes a negative
presumption of paternity, meaning the Registrar assumes non-Indian paternity.
This means that the children born of mothers registered under subsection 6(2)
are vulnerable as their children are now considered to be non-status and thus
not entitled to their treaty rights such as health care and education rights,
First Nation band membership, and First Nation citizenship.
Many know by now that Indigenous women are
victims of a higher rate of sexual violence such as incest, rape, gang rape,
sexual slavery and prostitution. This situation has been brought on through the
oppression of colonization, the denial of our rights as Indigenous people, the
denial of our land and resources, the residential and day school systems, and
the criminalization of our cultures and Indigenous knowledge systems. In any
sexist and racist society young Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable.
Research has shown that 45 per cent of the children born to status Indian
mothers 15 years of age or younger do not have their father’s signature on
their birth registration form.
It is precisely at this moment where
Canada's practice falls within the parameters outlined in the International
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Specifically, when a father's signature is not placed on a child's birth
registration form and the mother is registered under subsection 6(2) of the
Indian Act, AANDC's unstated paternity policy transfers [read commits the
genocide] these children from their First Nation community into mainstream
It is crucial that I point out that in the
process of committing genocide Canada relies on language that blames mothers,
as in "unstated paternity." While AANDC's unstated paternity policy
targets Indigenous mothers for the lack of the father's signature, there are
many instances where a mother, for very legitimate reasons, may refuse to
obtain a man's signature, such as in the unfortunate situations of incest and
rape. In addition, there are many situations where a father will not sign a
birth registration form as they seek to avoid child support payments or because
they need to preserve a previous relationship. Clearly, terms such as
unreported, unnamed unacknowledged, unestablished, unrecognized, and unknown
paternity are better signifiers of women's realities.
AANDC's genocidal policy continues to exist
today despite the fact that section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
was put in place in 1982 and is supposed to protect Indigenous women from sex
discrimination. Furthermore, this genocidal policy exists today despite the
long-time heroic efforts of Mary Two-Axe Early, Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell,
Yvonne Bedard, Sandra Lovelace, and Sharon McIvor. It is clear to me that
legislative change, such as the changes to The Indian Act that took place in
1985 and 2011, is not an avenue for Indigenous women. Clearly the government of
Canada has merely manipulated moments of legislative change in their favour: genocide.
Through their unstated paternity policy,
Canada perpetuates the sexual violence imposed on Indigenous women and commits
genocide on their children. Since 1985, when this AANDC policy emerged, I
estimate that as many as 25,000 Indigenous children have been affected by this
In April 2012 Canadians celebrated the 30th
anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Do you feel protected? Did
you feel fuzzy and warm? I certainly did not and I am sure many Indigenous
women and their babies stand with me on this.
Dr. Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley.
She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex
discrimination in The Indian Act and she recently published a book titled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts.
You can reach her at email@example.com
and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.
Canada's Residential Schools
The religious organizations that operated the schools — the Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Jesuits of English Canada and some Catholic groups — in 2015 expressed regret
for the “well-documented” abuses. The Catholic Church has never offered an official apology, something that Trudeau and others have repeatedly called for.
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