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At this year's 25th Annual Women's Memorial March in Vancouver, held on February 14. (Photo: Caelie_Frampton/flickr/cc)

 

Damning Report Reveals Canada's Indifference Toward Indigenous Women

'How many Indigenous women and girls would have been found or would still be alive if governments had acted on more of these recommendations?'

Deirdre Fulton

Over the course of two decades, dozens of human rights groups, First Nations advocates, and women's organizations have issued more than 700 recommendations on how to stem the Canadian crisis of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

But an "alarming" study (pdf) released Thursday shows that governments in Canada have repeatedly ignored those recommendations, lending credence to the claim that federal and provincial officials are dismissive of the risks Indigenous women face today.

Indigenous women are three times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous women, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women reviewed 58 reports dealing with aspects of violence and discrimination against Indigenous women and girls, including government studies, reports by international human rights bodies, and published research of Indigenous women’s organizations. They found that "only a few of more than 700 recommendations in these reports have ever been fully implemented."

Members of the coalition, which includes Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, expressed outrage at the findings.

"How many Indigenous women and girls would have been found or would still be alive if governments had acted on more of these recommendations?" asked Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. "This is yet another piece of irrefutable evidence that governments in Canada have breached their fundamental moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all women, without discrimination."

For example, four separate reports have recommended the establishment of a national commission of inquiry to investigate the persistence of violence against Indigenous women and girls. But while all provinces and territories have endorsed the idea, the Canadian federal government has rejected such calls. In an interview with CBC at the end of last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, in response to a question about whether the government was considering a national inquiry: "It isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest."

Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said "the fact that governments have been sitting on these reports, leaving important, life-saving recommendations unimplemented, is exactly why we need the intervention of an independent commission of inquiry."

Meanwhile, the first National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls kicked off in Ottawa on Thursday, bringing together families of the dead and missing, First Nations representatives, and members of both provincial and federal governments.

The event, organized by several Indigenous groups including the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, is seen as a first step toward creating a national public inquiry into the root causes of violence against Indigenous women.

A People's Gathering will take place all day on Friday, in coordination with the National Roundtable. The gathering will be webcast for those unable to attend in person at the Assembly of First Nations website.


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