Cultural Genocide And Indigenous Rights


First off, Bloxham and Moses, Genocide Studies discuss Raphael Lemkin’s understanding of genocide. For instance, when writing about genocide, “…Lemkin actually wrote ‘of annihilating the groups themselves’.” (p.21). The problem with this statement is that it is very ambiguous and can hold many different meanings. And Lemkin is not the greatest writer, he actually preferred to use the ‘crippling’ instead of destruction/extermination, he firstly wrote in 1946 ‘the criminal intent to destroy or cripple permanently a human group’. However, the cripple is not often associated with extermination or mass killing, and how much damage has to be done before it is considered cripple? In addition, “Lemkin was a proponent of what sociologist Rogers Brubaker calls ‘groupism’…” (p.22). It is noticeable how Lemkin does not state the ethic/cultural human group, just human group which is a broad term because it can include any humans who share any similarities not just culturally/ethnically.

It is disappointing how Lemkin didn’t stand up with his research on genocide. And allowed the UN Convention to completely change his definition by removing the idea of cultural genocide, and giving the impression of mass killings. Because this allows states to preform cultural genocide and essentially get away with the injustices. This is important to state because “to destroy” can also mean getting rid of social institutions that allow the group to express itself as a group, such as churches and temples. This is similar to the Canadian government restrained indigenous people from their cultural and religious practices through residential schools, this can be considered cultural genocide. And this illustrates how ambiguous the term genocide is, but by including other types of genocide, it can be prevented.

During the 1970s, the global Indigenous rights movement advanced the idea that Indigenous peoples were equal to all with the same human rights. Lightfoot proposed the question of if all peoples had the right of self-determination, how could this right be denied to Indigenous peoples? Indigenous leaders used this as leverage for equal rights, and in right when the UN General Assembly adopted the ICCPR and ICESCR. However, the Working Group initially did not want to follow through the changes that Indigenous representatives argued were necessary, in the areas of self-determination and land rights. This illustrates the little knowledge the Working Group carries for Indigenous communities. This is why it was so hard for Indigenous communities to get land rights because many UN member states are unaware of the practices of Indigenous communities. In addition, countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Chile, and the U.S.A. did not support Indigenous self-determination. While this is not surprising since Canada had residential schools to force children to abandon their Aboriginal background. Article 25 in the UDHR expresses that everyone has the right to standard living and access to food/clothing, etc. But the opposite is happening in many reserves throughout Canada where they don’t have the basic living necessities such as proper housing and clean water, treating Indigenous peoples as unequal’s. The recent B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act is in the right direction to create a path that respects the rights of Indigenous peoples. And while the act has been made, it is important not to fall short on it.