VANCOUVER—After facing criticism for not using the term earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke the word “genocide” late Monday afternoon at a Vancouver women’s conference as he referred to what is happening to Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
Trudeau spoke at the Women Deliver conference hours after he had attended the official Ottawa-area presentation of the country’s inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. The long-awaited inquiry labelled the country’s “colonialist structures” as contributing to a “genocide” of Indigenous women and girls.
“Earlier this morning, the national inquiry formally presented their report, in which they found that the tragic violence that Indigenous women and girls have experienced amounts to genocide,” Trudeau told the crowd.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau had not used the term “genocide” to describe the report’s findings, despite the inquiry’s Chief Commissioner Marion Buller saying it is “an inescapable conclusion” of the inquiry. Trudeau faced significant online criticism over the issue.
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Women Deliver’s CEO Katja Iverson introduced Trudeau to the stage, calling him “a great friend and fellow feminist, the legendary Prime Minister of Canada,” eliciting applause, a few loud “boos” and an audible heckler who yelled “Do something!”
The event is the world’s largest conference on women’s rights and gender and is hosting more than 8,000 people from more than 160 countries this week.
“For too long, Indigenous women and girls have experienced violence at a rate that is staggering when compared to non-Indigenous women,” Trudeau said.
“We will do a thorough review of this report and develop and implement a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ and Two Spirit people, working with Indigenous partners to determine next steps.”
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Maryam Monsef, the minister for women and gender equality, spoke at a news conference earlier in the afternoon. Calling the conference the “Olympics for feminists,” she told the room of reporters from around the world that Canada comes to the “work” of fighting for gender equality “with a lot of humility,” referring to the findings from the report on missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“Today is an important day for Canada,” she said. “As you heard the prime minister say (earlier today) the challenge and the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is not a relic of the past. It is very much a reality for us here in Canada and we will work to do right by our stolen sisters … we have a lot of work here to do at home, we accept that.”