MKO Calls on Canada’s Justice Minister to Investigate the Indian Residential Schools System as a Crime Against Humanity
November 16, 2023
Thompson, Manitoba – The Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. has reiterated MKO’s earlier call for Canada to commence an investigation of the Indian Residential School system as a crime against humanity under the laws of Canada. MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee presented MKO’s renewed call for action during a meeting with federal Justice Minister Arif Virani at the Permanent Mission of Canada in Geneva, Switzerland on November 9, 2023.
MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee and MKO officials were in Geneva last week to participate in the 4th Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Canada before the Working Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UPR of Canada took place at the United Nations in Geneva on November 10, 2023. MKO is an NGO in Consultation with ECOSOC and is accredited to the United Nations duty stations in New York and Geneva.
Grand Chief Settee said, “I reminded Minister Virani that MKO’s first response after the announcement by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc of the discovery of the 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School was to call on Prime Minister Trudeau and former Justice Minister David Lametti to investigate the Indian Residential School System as a crime against humanity pursuant to Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.”
“During MKO’s meeting with Minister Virani, I said that the circumstances of the Indian Residential School System meet the tests of crimes against humanity under the laws of Canada as well as under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” the MKO Grand Chief continued.
Minister Virani told the Working Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council during the UPR of Canada that:
“The identification of unmarked graves and burial sites at former residential schools has caused us all to reflect on Canada’s history and the legacy of colonialism and racism, and the need for further efforts to ensure justice for survivors, families and future generations of indigenous children.”
Grand Chief Settee said, “MKO says that the further efforts to ensure justice for survivors, families and future generations of First Nation children described by Minister Virani must also include Canada commencing an investigation of the Indian Residential School System as a crime against humanity.”
During the UPR session and shortly following Minister Virani’s comments to the Working Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Delegate of the Plurinational State of Bolivia recommended:
“Bolivia respectfully recommends that one a development programs and plans to combat structural discrimination against indigenous people, with a special focus on girls and boys to step up measures to investigate killings and disappearances of indigenous women, girls and boys in residential schools across the country and that it allow justice to be done for families and victims and survivors.”
Almost every one of the 120 delegations who spoke during the Review of Canada on November 10, 2023 specifically called for Canada to take further steps to advance the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
The April 1, 2022 letter response from former Justice Minister Lametti to MKO’s initial June 3, 2021 call for action states, “(t)he Government of Canada supports the need for investigative and prosecutorial independence in any investigations and criminal trials related to residential schools. In Canada’s criminal justice system, the decision to prosecute rests with prosecutors from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada or provincial prosecution authorities, not the Attorney General of Canada.”
Grand Chief Settee added, “in terms of former Minister Lametti’s deferral of a decision to commence an investigation of the IRS system as a crime against humanity, MKO is advised that the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act requires the personal written consent of the Attorney General to proceed and that any proceedings may be conducted only by the Attorney General of Canada or counsel acting on behalf of the Attorney General.”
The briefing note shared by MKO in Geneva last week with state delegations to the Working Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council concludes by asking the delegates to recommend to Canada and to the Human Rights Council:
“That the Government of Canada initiate an investigation of the Indian Residential School System as a Crime Against Humanity as requested by an Indigenous Civil Society organization in Canada, being pursuant to Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, and in the event that Canada continues to defer actual initiation of such an investigation that the Human Rights Council refer the matter to the Security Council for potential referral to the International Criminal Court.”
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