International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Canada

Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

One part of Canadian history that is not commonly talked about is the Indian Residential School system. This boarding school system was in place as a way to try and assimilate aboriginal people into “normal (white) society”. Canada was not alone in this practice
as schools like these also existed in the United States for many years. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was constituted and created by the Indian trc-final-reportResidential Schools Settlement. For years the aboriginal peoples of Canada have had to live with the consequences from the residential schools and finally this truth commission worked as a conduit for healing and truth. The goals of the Commission are to acknowledge the schools and their impacts and consequences, to provide a safe and culturally appropriate setting for former students  and their parents to come forward, to promote awareness of the IRS system, to create a historical record, produce and submit to the Parties of the Agreement report and lastly to support commemoration of former IRS students. The final report of the Commission is to be released in December of this year. Seeing how the United States system was so parallel to Canada it will be interesting to see if there is a future for a commission here in the states. *Pictured is Commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair shaking hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau*


Arrest Bush!



Four former detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan filed a complaint with the U.N. Committee against Torture against Canada for failing to arrest and prosecute former U.S. president George W. Bush. The Canadian Centre for International Justice and the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the complaint on behalf of Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani, and Murat Kurnaz (The Canadian Press). This episode goes back to last year, when they filed a criminal complaint in Canada alleging torture against Bush (Wittes). When Bush and Clinton visited British Columbia for a speaking engagement in October, 2011, hundreds were out to protest, and bin Attash, el-Hajj, Tumani and Kurnaz called on the Canadian government to uphold its legal obligation under the UN Convention against Torture and conduct a criminal investigation against Bush while he was on Canadian Soil (Gallagher). The picture above is from the protest that occurred during Bush’s visit. Amnesty International also called on the Canadian authorities on October 12, 2011, to arrest and prosecute Bush (Comte). Regarding this incidence, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, wrote: “no, this isn’t an episode of South Park.”

Canada’s Justice Department answered with “It’s complicated” in briefing notes on the subject, pointing out that investigations involving crimes against humanity are complex, lengthy, and resource intensive and that Canada prioritizes those who reside in Canada. The note also writes that officials should tell the UN Committee, “Canada does not address specific criminal complaints in a public forum,” if pressed for information on Bush and Cheney (The Canadian Press).

The call for Bush’s arrest was supported by three civil organizations from U.S., Canada, and U.K., and this shows that civil society and victims will not be silent about human rights violations committed by the U.S. Although it is unlikely that Bush will actually be arrested and prosecuted, incidence like this significantly mars the reputation of the former leader of the U.S. Do you think incidence like this would change United States’ future calculations and actions? Also, I read someone’s comment on one of the news articles, which said, “Amnesty, I have just lost respect for you…what kind of idiot attacks the U.S. while ignoring the ACTUAL crimes of groups like Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc….?” These organizations probably didn’t think they would actually put Bush in jail. Then why do you think they did this? Also, do you think these organizations should just focus on “worse” human rights violations? Below are the links to the news and blog posts I read.

Canada’s Truth Commission and the Trauma of Residential Schools

This is a really interesting Globe and Mail article  –“Hearings reopen old wounds for residential school survivor” – that details that background on the Canadian TRC and aboriginal residential schools. Here is a segment:

“I never realized the depth of my own story until I heard their stories,” said Mr. John, who stood back from the podium, tried to start speaking again, but couldn’t as the tears flowed. “It haunts me.”

Mr. John, who is the leader of B.C.’s largest aboriginal organization, spoke at the opening of the commission’s two-day stop in Victoria, which as many as 2,000 survivors and their families are expected to attend.  The gathering will include traditional ceremonies and survivor gatherings, as well as formal statements as the commission pursues its mandate of helping survivors heal and creating a complete historical record of Canada’s Indian residential school system.

The commission’s interim report, published in February, found Canadians know very little about aboriginal people and residential schools, and recommended schools teach about the physical and sexual abuse and neglect suffered at the schools….

Mr. John said the burden of the residential school system is having to come to terms with being part of a government and church system that was designed to erase aboriginal culture, spirit and way of life. “That is why this is a mixed-up place for many of us, this place we have to talk about,” he said.

“We were supposed to kill our languages, our cultures. We were that vehicle for which this was supposed to happen. That’s the burden we have to bear. It was through us that our languages were denied. But we were children and we didn’t know.”

The TRC should hopefully contribute to both greater knowledge of the abuses, also for the wider Canadian public, and acknowledgement for the victims.