The Danger of Terminology

18 Oct

Yesterday morning I was listening to The Current on CBC radio. The topic Anna Maria Tremonti and her guests were discussing was whether or not the Canadian Government’s treatment of our First Nations people should be considered genocide.

In addition to annihilation, genocide can also be about destroying a people’s culture, language, history, religion, books, etc. so that their identity is extinguished, even if the group in question still exists. This, in Bernie Farber (and Phil Fontaine’s) opinion, would qualify the Canadian Governments treatment of our First Nations peoples as a genocide.  

William Schabas disagrees. While he certainly agreed that the many heinous acts towards and decisions regarding First Nations people here in Canada since colonization are crimes against humanity (residential schools, refusing treatment for tuberculosis at some of those schools causing the death of thousands of Aboriginal children, testing the effectiveness of vitamins on Aboriginal children by denying them food are a few examples he gave), he stopped short of using the term genocide.

One thing he said, in particular, gave me pause. As he was explaining his position he stated that he thought that the debate over the use of the term genocide was unfortunate, as it was overshadowing the discussion about the report that was just released by James Anaya (the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), and the importance of the content of that report.  Case in point was the very interview he was participating in – focused on the terminology debate, not the recommendations for Ottawa. 

Ah. How often do we miss the opportunity of a deeper conversation that will increase our awareness, challenge our perspective, and open our eyes because we are too busy swimming in the shallower waters like what word to use? True, it helps to be on the same page, but if we get hung up on semantics we can easily miss the richer heart of the matter where the truth and pain as well as the opportunity for growth, understanding and healing lie. 

See more.

copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.




One Response to “The Danger of Terminology”

  1. Frances Olsen October 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    You make a good point and what took place was intentional genocide, Fran

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