Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State

Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State

Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State

Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State


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Winner of The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy, Simon Fraser University
Originally approved as a master of laws thesis by a respected Canadian university, this book tackles one of the most compelling issues of our time—the crime of genocide—and whether in fact it can be said to have occurred in relation to the many Original Nations on Great Turtle Island now claimed by a state called Canada. It has been hailed as groundbreaking by many Indigenous and other scholars engaged with this issue, impacting not just Canada but states worldwide where entrapped Indigenous nations face absorption by a dominating colonial state.Starblanket unpacks Canada's role in the removal of cultural genocide from the Genocide Convention, though the disappearance of an Original Nation by forced assimilation was regarded by many states as equally genocidal as destruction by slaughter. Did Canada seek to tailor the definition of genocide to escape its own crimes which were then even ongoing? The crime of genocide, to be held as such under current international law, must address the complicated issue of mens rea (not just the commission of a crime, but the specific intent to do so). This book permits readers to make a judgment on whether or not this was the case.Starblanket examines how genocide was operationalized in Canada, focused primarily on breaking the intergenerational transmission of culture from parents to children. Seeking to absorb the new generations into a different cultural identity—English-speaking, Christian, Anglo-Saxon, termed Canadian—Canada seized children from their parents, and oversaw and enforced the stripping of their cultural beliefs, languages and traditions, replacing them by those still in process of being established by the emerging Canadian state. She outlines the array and extent of the destruction which inevitably took place as part of the effort to bring about such a wrenching change—forcible indoctrination by means of massive and widespread death by disease and dilapidated living conditions, torture, forced starvation, labor, and sexual predation—collateral damage to Canada's effort to absorb diverse original nations into one larger, alien and dominating body politic. The cumulative effects of genocide continue to be exhibited by the survivors and their descendants who suffer from the trauma and dysfunction, primarily in healthy proper parenting, which results in ongoing forcible removals via the child welfare systems to this day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998694771
Publisher: Clarity Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/01/2018
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Tamara Starblanket is Spider Woman, a Nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six Territory. Tamara holds an LLM (master of laws) from the University of Saskatchewan, and an LLB from the University of British Columbia. She is the Co-Chair of the North American Indigenous Peoples' Caucus (NAIPC).

Foreword: Ward Churchill has achieved an unparalleled reputation as a scholar-activist and analyst of indigenous issues. He is a former Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), and the author of numerous books, including A Little Matter of Genocide, Struggle for the Land, and Fantasies of the Master Race.

Afterword: Sharon Venne LLB (Notokwew Muskwa Manitokan) is an Indigenous Treaty person (Cree) and by marriage a member of the Blood Tribe within Treaty 7. Sharon has published materials on the history of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations since 1977 and an article on the problem of NGOs and their interference in Indigenous Peoples' exercise of the right to self-determination within international law. In 2015, Sharon was given the lifetime achievement award from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians for her work for Treaty Peoples.

Read an Excerpt

Suffer the Little Children is not a product of "scholarly detachment." It was born of pain, entire lives of it, most immediately my family's and my own. Beyond that, its birth was induced by the suffering of my people as a whole, a suffering shared by each of the peoples indigenous to that portion of North America, our Great Turtle Island, now commonly referred to as "Canada." In every instance, the pain and suffering results from genocidal actions taken against us by the Canadian settler state, as a matter of policy and law for well over a century. Indeed, such policy-driven actions continue at present, albeit in somewhat altered form, and the toll continues to mount.

While other aspects of Canada's "Indian policies" can be seen to fit the definition of genocide, specifically at issue in this book is its century long program of forcibly removing indigenous children from their families, communities, societies—in sum, from their Nations—and placing them for sustained periods in "residential schools" where the stated goal was to strip them of their cultural identities and "remake" them into "end products" deemed useful to Canada's colonizing and ever-growing settler population.

To this end, children as young as four were crammed into poorly-heated and -ventilated barracks-type "dormitories," systematically demeaned and degraded, subjected to both physical and psychological torture (including wholesale sexual predation), denied anything that might be called adequate nutrition, medical care, or clothing, and typically impressed into manual labor. The effects were, and of course remain, devastating.

I am the sole member of my birth family still alive. My grandparents, maternal and paternal, as well as my late mother and her siblings, were all forced to spend their formative years in the schools, an experience from which none of them would ever recover. The consequences are perhaps best reflected in the fact that my last sister passed into the Spirit World at age 29.

Were they here before me, I would tell them that I know that the immensity of the sense of loss, emptiness and sorrow by which their lives were consumed was not their fault, nor that of the countless others upon whom the same agony was inflicted. I am a product of this genocidal reality, at least thus far, although I never personally attended a residential school. Like my late sister, however, I've lived my life with the results. And for this reason, then, I am obligated by my own Nehiyaw (Cree) tradition to recount the story of what has happened and is still happening, so that all can know it for what it was and will always remain. To do so is an honouring, an expression of my love and respect not only for my family, but for the Nehiyaw, and for all Indigenous Peoples, our children, their children, and for every coming generation. Accordingly, it is intended as a contribution to the revitalization, and ultimately the liberation of what the late Shuswap leader George Manuel forty years ago described as a "Fourth World" comprised of Indigenous Nations in every region of Mother Earth.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 9

Dedication 13

Foreword Reconceptualizing the Law and History of Indigenous Peoples' Genocide by Canada Ward Churchill 15

Introduction The Colonizer's Way of Genocide: Confronting the Wall of Evasion and Denial 21

Rubrics of Denial 23

Beyond the Wall 29

A Few Comments on Style and Terminology 36

Finally, Some Anticipated Criticisms 37

Chapter 1 Naming the Crime: Defining Genocide in International Law 39

Origination of the Term 40

The Litany of Definitional Distortions 45

Drafting the Genocide Convention 45

Ad Hoc and Sixth Committee Debates 48

Forced Transfer of Children 55

Elements of the Crime 58

Actus Reus 60

Causing Serious Bodily Mental Harm to Members of the Group 60

Forcibly Transferring Children of the Group to Another Group 66

Mens Rea 68

The Matter of "Specific Intent" 70

The Travaux and the Anti-Colonial Factor 76

Colonial Clause 78

Chapter 2 The Horror: Canada's Forced Transfer of Indigenous Children 89

The Goal of Complete Assimilation 90

Forcible Transfer and Resistance 95

Destruction of the National Pattern 99

Imposition of the National Pattern 110

Death and Disease 113

Torture 116

Forced Starvation 119

Forced Labour 123

Sexual Predation 124

Immediate and Long-Term Effects 127

Forcible Removals in the Child Welfare Systems 132

Traumatic Parenting Patterns 136

Photos 140

Chapter 3 Coming to Grips with Canada as a Colonizing State: The Creator Knows Their Lies and So Must We 153

The Colonial Framework 153

Civilizing Discourse 159

Cognitive Conditioning 160

Metaphors and Models 164

Definitions 166

Colonialism and Genocide 167

'Colonization' as Domination and Dehumanization 171

Indoctrination 174

Doctrines of Racial Superiority 180

The Invention of "Civilization" 184

Forced Transfer Affects Our Nationhood 186

Model of Domination and Dehumanization 190

Demonization, Isolation and Destruction 195

Chapter 4 Smoke and Mirrors: Canada's Pretense of Compliance with the Genocide Convention 206

Controversy 206

Genocide in Public International Law 209

The "Made in Canada" Approach to Genocide 211

Separating Rhetoric from Reality 219

Reserving the Right to Commit Genocide 222

The 1951 ICJ Advisory Opinion 223

Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 229

Applying the Law to Canada 232

Article 18 Application 232

Application ofthe UNGC 243

Forcible Transferring 251

Serious Bodily and Mental Harm 254

Intent 258

Forcible Transfers into the Child Welfare System 264

Conclusion The Way Ahead: Self-Determination is the Solution 269

Self-Determination is the Solution 278

Afterword Why the Chidren? Sharon Helen Venne 282

Endnotes 286

Index 365

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