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POLL: Should Parliament recognize the residential schools system as genocide?

After Pope called residential schools 'genocide,' House of Commons should too, says NDP MP
Pope Francis gets water from the lake after blessing it during the annual pilgrimage event in Lac Ste. Anne, Alta., Tuesday, July 26, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A New Democrat member of Parliament said Tuesday she hopes all of her colleagues will recognize the residential schools system as genocide, now that Pope Francis has used the term.

Leah Gazan, who represents Winnipeg Centre, tried last year to get unanimous consent from MPs in the House of Commons to press the Canadian government to call what unfolded inside residential schools a genocide.

Her motion referred to the United Nations convention on genocide adopted in 1948, which defines genocide as killing members of a group, causing them serious physical or mental harm, placing them under conditions to destroy them, imposing measures to prevent births or forcibly transferring children to another group.

Gazan said at the time that Canada's residential schools policy met all five criteria, but some voices in the House of Commons said "no," so her motion requiring unanimous consent failed. 

She said she is now planning to present another motion, but is still thinking about what it should say while the House of Commons is on its summer break.

"Having the experience of residential school survivors continually up for debate is another act of violence," Gazan, a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, said in an interview Tuesday. 

"We need to be mindful of that."

Pope Francis says he felt the pain of Indigenous Peoples during his trip to Canada but also left with a sense of hope.

The six-day journey saw Francis meet with Indigenous people and residential school survivors during stops in Alberta, Quebec, and Nunavut last week.

Throughout the trip the Pope apologized for the role of some members of the Roman Catholic Church in the schools and other assimilation policies.

On his flight back to Rome, Francis said the abuses Indigenous Peoples faced amounted to genocide.

The Pope says there were many joyful moments, but the overall meaning and tone was reflection, repentance, and reconciliation.

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Should Parliament recognize the residential schools system as genocide? Vote in the poll below.

— files from The Canadian Press