Toronto – June 4, 2019 – The need to act to end violence against Indigenous women and girls is urgent and, tragically, this has been the case for generations. The release of the report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls makes it clear that without systemic legal, legislative, and cultural change, a legacy of systemic discrimination, racism, and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people – what the inquiry summarizes as genocide – will continue to afflict generations to come.
The federal government’s pledge to study the report and come up with a National Action Plan are moves in the right direction, but the time for lengthy deliberation is over. It is time to act. That was clear from more than 1,500 families of victims and survivors who testified during the three-year inquiry.
As a community of communities, we must move forward together – in good faith, and with a sense of urgency and long-term commitment. The 231 Calls for Justice in the report provide a pathway. These calls challenge the factors that lead to violence, such as systemic racism; inequitable funding for social, health, and education services; and the pervasiveness of colonial attitudes and cultural bias that continue to marginalize the issues raised by Indigenous persons and communities.
These are just some of the “important truths” that the report said must be acknowledged – including Canada’s history of violating the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.
While the federal government studies the report, there is immediate action that it can take now by completely fulfilling its obligation to equitably fund health, educational, and social services for Indigenous children, as ordered by the federal Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2016. The order came in the wake of a legal action by our national partner, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (the Caring Society). So far, the federal government has only advanced partial measures, while many children on reserves still lack a decent school, learning resources, and a nurse to see when they are ill. This must be addressed without further delay.
As the National Inquiry report points out, all levels of government must act to end the endemic violence, racism, and inequity imposed on Indigenous Peoples over the centuries. But the report also states that each of us as individuals can contribute to healing the wounds. Reading the report is a first step, but just as important is proactively building relationships with Indigenous persons that respect and celebrate their rights, culture, contributions, and wisdom.
Paul R. Meinema