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Trudeau accepts the finding of genocide, but says focus needs to be on response

Last Updated Jun 4, 2019 at 5:12 pm PDT

VANCOUVER — While addressing the closing ceremony of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, the prime minister did not use the word “genocide” once, but on Tuesday at the Women Deliver 2019 conference in Vancouver, he was striking a different tone.

“We accept the findings of the commissioners that it was genocide,” Justin Trudeau said. “But our focus is going to be, as it must be, on the families.”

Debate has erupted over the definition of the term after the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls repeatedly used it in its final report released Monday.

Genocide is defined as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

But Trudeau has said people are wrapped up in a debate over the powerful term, when the focus should be on how to put an end to the issues raised by the inquiry.

“Many debates ongoing around words and use of words,” he said. “Our focus, as a country, as leaders, as citizens, must be on the steps we take to put an end to this situation.”

He said Canada has repeatedly failed Indigenous women and girls across the country.

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier says “genocide” is the wrong term to use because it’s too strong.

“I think it is extreme and they must have used another word to describe that.”

Trudeau said the tragedy of not treating cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women as a priority has to end, and promised an action plan to address the report’s 231 recommendations, which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

The prime minister made the remarks after announcing a $1.4-billion annual investment to advance the health and rights of women around the world starting in 2023.

Speaking at the conference in Vancouver on gender equality, Trudeau also told the crowd the money makes Canada a global leader in funding sexual and reproductive health rights.