The horrific genocidal policies against indigenous children in British Columbia have surfaced at an inappropriate time for Canada, the U.S., and its allies who are embroiled in the ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy, which aims to contain the growing economic and military power of China and demonise it for its alleged human rights abuses.
This happened when China called on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the cultural genocide of indigenous people in Canada. Jiang Duan, a senior Chinese official to the UN said, “historically Canada robbed the indigenous people of the land, killed them and eradicated their culture.”
Prime Minister Trudeau attempted to deflect attention from Canada’s crimes by saying that the country accepts its responsibility while China is not recognising there is a problem.. “that is why Canadians and people from around the world are speaking up for people like the Uyghurs.”
To maintain maximum stress on China the Canadian Ambassador presented a joint statement to the UN that defended the rights of the Muslim Uyghur community and was signed by more than 40 countries including Britain, Australia, France, Germany. Mostly all signatories are allied to the US’s plan to contain China and derail the Belt Road Initiative which will transform the South Asia Pacific region through economic and infrastructure development.
To refocus world attention away from Canada’s crimes against indigenous people, Trudeau raised the issue of the alleged Uyghur oppression in China, and in the process, negated the pain and sufferings of its indigenous people and exposed the historical “willed amnesia” and inhumanity of western leaders.
Historian David Harvey in New Imperialism (2003) argues, “the most powerful myth of modernity, is the belief there has been a radical break with the past.” Modernity, he argues, “is the story of new beginnings and ‘creative destruction, of “starting over and willed amnesia.”
However, this ‘willed amnesia’ becomes a problem when reality surfaces, like the recent revelations of thousands of indigenous children’s who have suffered systematic rape violence and torture in British Columbia, part of Canadian governmental policy based on “enforced assimilation”. Or when the US on its mission to export “democracy and human rights” tries to cover up the abuses in Iraq’s Abu Gharaib prison.
Anyone exposing this “willed amnesia” as Julian Assange did, will be incarcerated and tortured as Assange has been without any criminal charges against him.
The residential schools were set up in the late 1800s and were still in operation till 1996. They were set up by the Canadian government in a policy of forced “assimilation”, but close inspection reveals it was more a policy of indiscriminate genocide. Catholic and Protestant nuns’ priests and monks ran the schools. The Canadian Mounty would hunt indigenous children, snatching them from their mothers. Children as young as three were put into these residential homes. Survivors have testified as to how they were systematically tortured and beaten if they spoke “Cree,”, their own language. They were forced to dress and speak like white people and follow Christianity.
A book documenting the genocide of indigenous people in America titled Red Nation Rising (2021) states that the Indian Health Service “sterilized between 25 and 50 percent of all Native women between the years 1970 and 1976.”
The authors of the book argue that the genocide of indigenous people had less to do with race and more about a land grab. While this is true, one cannot underestimate how racist ideas played a major part in justifying imperialism and genocide in the colonies. Edward Said points out in his book Orientalism (1978) that centuries of western literature, media, and government policies depicted other languages, religions, and cultures as savage and inferior, justifying imperialism and the ‘civilising mission.’
If we examine the ‘civilising mission’, it is closely linked to the war on terror rhetoric of President Bush that you are “either with us or with the terrorists”. Anyone opposing British colonial rule was viewed as a terrorist and imprisoned or killed. The US is also on a mission after 9/11 to hunt down people or organisations they deem as terrorists. Testimonies from many US soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan along with Wikileaks, exposed the indiscriminate shooting and bombing of innocent Iraqi and Afghan men, women, and children. Today President Biden is hunting “domestic terrorists” against US government policies.
While many in France and Britain agree with President Macron’s inflammatory speeches about millions of Muslims lining in the West and the need for them to assimilate. One can argue that Macron’s proposals for ‘mandatory schooling of minors from the age of 3 to avoid cultural indoctrination within the family, is similar to the proposals or intentions of Canadian and US governments who took small indigenous children to residential homes to be indoctrinated by the state.
The UK government is also distrustful of Muslims, who may be disgruntled about US wars against Islamic countries. Ex- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has often called for a reformation of Islam which adheres to western values. The ‘Prevent’ strategy (2011) outlines methods to prevent children from becoming radicalised. One of the proposals was that teachers should report to police if any Muslim child is expressing ‘extremist’ views like defending the rights of Palestinians or against US and UK wars in Afghanistan or Syria.
While Prime Minister Trudeau shamefully stands at the UN, highlighting western leaders concern for “Muslim suffering” in Xinjiang, his willed amnesia ignores the US’s genocidal war on terror aimed at Muslims.
Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire in The U.S. and the UK Committed Genocide Against the Iraqi People argues “both countries have committed genocide against the Iraq people between 1990/2012, killing 3.3 million including 750,000 Iraqi children through sanctions and war, not including subsequent wars by US and NATO, against Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, and their attempted and well- funded efforts through a proxy war to destroy Syria, is criminal.”
As Prime Minister Trudeau tries to deflect attention from the US, Canada, and Australia’s ongoing crimes against the indigenous people, by pointing to China, he ignores the fact that cultural imperialism and white privilege are embedded in western countries and there is little remorse. And the only logical conclusion one can come to is that the west’s cultural genocidal policies will continue with the US in pursuit of unipolar domination.
The writer is a print and TV journalist based in Britain. She has also worked in the Middle East and writes on current affairs.