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No More Stolen Sisters

    April 25, 2016

    The Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women (LSC), a national coalition of individuals and civil society organizations, has supported the call for a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIW). Like other advocates, activists and community members, the LSC is deeply concerned that the inquiry be a meaningful one.

    LSC members have a breadth of knowledge and interdisciplinary expertise regarding the MMIW issue. Today, the LSC has released a statement on the importance of full provincial and territorial cooperation with the upcoming national inquiry.

    It is crucial that the role of provinces and territories and the extent of their participation in the upcoming national inquiry be clearly determined as soon as possible. The full participation and cooperation of all Canadian jurisdictions in the upcoming national inquiry is necessary in order to ensure meaningful outcomes.

    Reports

    Amnesty International's 2004 Stolen Sisters report was one of the first reports to systematically document the pattern of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Due to continued government inaction to end the violence, the findings and recommendations in the 2004 report, and its 2009 update, are as relevant today as they were at the time of publishing.

    Violence against Indigenous women and girls isn't just an Indigenous issue or a women's issue. It is a Canadian issue and to end the violence each one of us must commit to taking action in our daily lives. What can you do?

    Amnesty International is in the process of conducting research into the human rights impacts of large-scale natural resource development in northeastern British Columbia, with a particular focus on the region’s urban centre, Fort St. John. Part of this research focuses on the human rights impacts on women and girls, and particularly Indigenous women and girls.

    Why? Because every year women from Fort St. John travel to Ottawa with a banner listing the missing and murdered women and girls in their community—and every year the banner includes more names. And because, as a wide range of people and organizations from this region have pointed out, environmental assessments and other decision-making processes around large-scale natural resource development projects need to pay more attention to their impact on people's lives and the social fabric of the communities they live in.

    There is not one cause of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and likewise, there is not one single solution. A comprehensive, coordinated, well resourced national response, developed with Indigenous women and girls, is needed to end the violence. 

    What solutions are needed to stop the violence?

    A comprehensive national response to end violence against Indigenous women and girls should include:

    A national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women focused on exposing the nature of this violence and on ensuring government and police accountability for an effective and coordinated response.

    A national action plan to end violence against women which addresses the root causes of violence and identifies holistic, culturally-appropriate ways in which to prevent violence and to support those impacted by violence.

    If you are an Indigenous woman or girl in Canada—whether you live on reserve or in an urban area, regardless of your age or socio-economic status—the simple fact that you are an Indigenous woman or girl means that you are at least 3 times more likely to experience violence, and at least 6 times more likely to be murdered than any other woman or girl in Canada. This violence is a national human rights crisis and it must stop.

    Why are the rates of violence so high?

    Racist and sexist stereotypes lead perpetrators to believe that they can get away with committing acts of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    The many legacies of colonialism increase the risk of experiencing violence—from impoverishment to the lasting harm from residential schools to the disempowerment of Indigenous women and girls in their own communities.

    Decades of government and law enforcement inaction to end the violence.

    On Friday, February 26th, at 7:30 p.m. in Room B-112 of Okanagan College, 1000 KLO Road, Amnesty International's Kelowna group presents "Highway of Tears"- a documentary film about the disappearances of at least 40 young women, mostly aboriginal, since the 1960s on Highway 16 in northern B.C.  A recent RCMP special investigation linked DNA from one of the missing women to a deceased American criminal.  The cases reveal sweeping crimes: kidnapping, rape, torture, murder and the disposal of human bodies.  The women have been victims not only of murderous predators but also of a pervasive systemic racism that has kept them marginalized on impoverished reservations.  First Nations leaders and activists contend that there has been little interest in further investigating the crimes and in apprehending their killers.  Admission is by donation.  More information at 250-769-4740.

    January 22, 2016

    In an open letter sent this week, five national organizations that have been deeply involved in efforts to expose and address violence against Indigenous women and girls call on the federal government to ensure that the forthcoming national inquiry can:

    January 20, 2016

    “Reconciliation means not having to say sorry twice,” Dr. Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society

    Education. Health Care. Child protection.

    For years, persistent federal government underfunding of these basic services in First Nations reserves has put  children at risk. It has denied them the kinds of opportunities that other young people in Canada often take for granted. And it has stood in the way of First Nations communities healing from the terrible harms inflicted through the residential schools programme and other colonialist policies.

    Now, we may be on the verge of an historic breakthrough.

    Next Tuesday, January 26, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is scheduled to deliver its long-awaited decision on whether or not the federal government’s underfunding of child protections services and other family supports is a form of racial discrimination.

    December 08, 2015

    Read the FAQ on Public Inquiries

     

    Today the government of Canada launched the design process for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Amnesty International welcomes this announcement, which has been long called for by Indigenous women and girls, the families of women who have gone missing and been murdered, National Aboriginal Organizations, and human rights groups like Amnesty International. We are mindful of all the families we have worked with for so many years as part of our No More Stolen Sisters campaign--they are in our thoughts today and every day. 

    In the lead up to this announcement, many questions. What exactly is a National Inquiry? What can it accomplish? How will the voices of Indigenous women and girls and family members be heard? 

    November 25, 2015

    A new report released today by Statistics Canada shows that Indigenous people are six times more likely than other people in Canada to be murdered.

    Amnesty International has long called for systematic, publicly available data on the Aboriginal identity of both the victims and perpetrators of violence. Such data can be crucial to better understand and eliminate violence.

    When the first national statistics on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were released in 2014 by the RCMP ("Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: An National Operational Overview")  the data was widely misrepresented and oversimplified in public debate. The numbers show a complex and pervasive pattern of violence against Indigenous women and girls. Amnesty International is still reviewing the data in the latest report, but we feel it is important to emphasize the following:

    November 24, 2015

    BY CRAIG BENJAMIN AND JACKIE HANSEN

    Indigenous women and girls in Canada are roughly 7 times more likely to be targeted by serial predators. This is according to an article in the published this week in the Globe and Mail.

    November 09, 2015

    (Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – November 9, 2015) A Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding a press conference this morning to advise the public that British Columbia has failed to make significant progress on many of the recommendations from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (MWCI) and continues to ignore international recommendations from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  Given their experience with the MWCI, the Coalition is making preliminary recommendations to the newly elected Trudeau Government for the National Inquiry which Prime Minister Trudeau promised would start immediately.

    For decades, Indigenous women and supporting organizations called for an inquiry into the disappearances of the many marginalized women from BC.  Unfortunately, the MWCI led by Wally Oppal in 2012 was a deeply and systemically flawed and frustrating process that repeated the same discrimination and exclusion which we hoped it was going to uncover. 

    October 28, 2015

    Indigenous women from Val d’Or, Quebec, a small town located about 500km northwest of Montreal, alleged that officers from the Sûreté du Québec (SQ, Quebec’s provincial police) have committed serious crimes against them, including physical and sexual assault.

    According to a report aired last week on the Radio Canada program Enquête, SQ officers are alleged to have “routinely picked up women who appeared to be intoxicated, drove them out of town and left them to walk home in the cold.” Some of the women interviewed by Radio Canada also allege that they were “physically assaulted or made to perform sex acts.”

    These allegations are extremely serious. But although law enforcement and government officials have known about the allegations since May, it wasn’t until the Radio Canada report aired that the eight officers under investigation for sexual misconduct were put on leave or transferred to administrative duty.

    October 01, 2015

    Connie Greyeyes is a grassroots activist from Fort St. John, a small community in northeastern British Columbia. She volunteers with the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, started the Women Warriors support group for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and she is one of the founders of the Fort St. John Sisters in Spirit vigil. Connie is a member of Alberta’s Bigstone Cree First Nation.

    Amnesty International caught up with Connie as she was preparing for the Sisters in Spirit vigil scheduled for October 9 in Fort St. John. The vigil is held annually to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and to raise awareness of the issue of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    August 05, 2015

    “My culture is my identity,” says Colleen Cardinal. “This is what has been denied to me.”

    The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped shine a light on the horrendous and lasting harm done by tearing Indigenous children from their families, their communities, their languages and their cultures.

    Critically, as the TRC report itself highlights, the uprooting of Indigenous children was not limited to the Residential School Programme.

    For decades, Indigenous families having difficulties providing adequate care for their children - whether as a result of impoverishment, the intergenerational consequences of abuses suffered in residential schools, or other social and economic stresses -  have been denied the help they need.

    July 23, 2015

    The United Nations Human Rights Committee issued its Concluding Observations today following its review of Canada’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Amnesty International welcomes this review of the country’s human rights record, the last of which occurred in October 2005—nearly a decade ago.

          New UN Report goes to the heart of Canada's failure to meet its international human right obligations    

    Read response from Indigenous peoples' organizations and allies

    July 10, 2015
    A sobering look at Canada's human rights record

    By Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada 

    “This is not the Canada I once knew.” 

    Those were the words of a British member of the UN Human Rights Committee who was taking part this week in the committee’s first review of Canada’s human rights record in 10 years.

    Sir Nigel Rodley, a law professor and chair of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, was referring to the deteriorating space for human rights advocacy, protest and dissent in Canada. He noted it was almost unbelievable that the UN committee felt compelled to raise these sorts of concerns with Canada. Sir Nigel highlighted research by the Voices coalition, which pointed to astonishing levels of fear and intimidation felt by Canadian activists and civil society groups, and referred to the disquiet expressed by the UN’s leading expert on the freedoms of assembly and association. He dismissed the Canadian government’s initial response to questions about the crackdown as “thin.”

    June 19, 2015

    With the release of a new report today, the RCMP confirmed that it is no longer attempting to track murders of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women across all jurisdictions in Canada.

    National data missing


     

    In May 2014, the RCMP released a national survey of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Although there were critical gaps in the data, that report marked the first national report of its kind, and included data from the RCMP and other police services across the country.

    May 07, 2015

    In almost two weeks of travel in the Peace River region and up to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, we've had the privilege of spending time with many inspiring activists and leaders. And we've been moved, and often angered by stories of abuse and indifference that have been shared with us by families of missing and murdered women and by women and girls who have experienced horrific violence in their own lives.

    But one of the richest experiences of this visit was the opportunity earlier this week to travel with elders from the Doig River First Nation to K'iht saa?dze, the area they're trying to protect for future generations as a tribal park.

    May 03, 2015

    A significant gulf in average wages between women and men. A severe shortage of affordable housing and quality childcare. An economic development model that depends on fly-in workers, labour camps and long shifts away from home that strain family life. Serious problems of drug dependency and alcohol abuse affecting all communities. And persistent gaps in basic services and supports for families, especially single parents.

    One of the fastest growing economies in Canada has drawn young workers and families from across the country to live and work in Fort St. John, BC. It has also created perfect storm conditions both to fuel violence and to deny adequate protection to those at risk.

    Add to this the unresolved legacy of past violations of Indigenous peoples' rights and continued discrimination facing First Nations and Metis persons, and it's not surprising that that we have heard so many moving and indeed shocking stories of sexual assaults and other violent attacks, murders and disappearance of Indigenous women and girls.

    April 23, 2015

    Never am I seen as strong, as proud, as resilient, never as I am
    Finally given the stars laid to gaze at them on back roads and in ditches on ghostly stretches of forgotten pebbled pathways your vastness swallows me. Do I fall in your line of sight? Do you see me now?
    Because I get this feeling that your eyes they curve around me
    —Exerpt from “Your eyes,” a poem by Helen Knott, an Indigenous woman from Fort St. John, BC

    April 15, 2015

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    Last month, federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt disclosed previously unreleased RCMP statistics about the numbers of murders committed by Indigenous men. The Minister appears to believe that these figures support the federal government’s current approach to the issue, including the ongoing refusal to hold a public inquiry or initiate a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Responding to the letter from Commission Paulson, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), stated, “We are absolutely shocked and appalled that the RCMP would hastily release these serious statistics without providing a full, publicly accessible report detailing how they are collecting and compiling this information.”

    March 09, 2015

    Ottawa - Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the federal government, while claiming to accept the majority of recommendations made in a new report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW), is in fact refusing to make any new commitments to stop the horrific levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

    In a strongly worded report released on Friday, the UN expert committee concluded that Canada was responsible for “grave violations” of human rights due its “protracted failure” to take sufficient action to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    The CEDAW report sets out 38 recommendations to address the marginalization and impoverishment putting Indigenous women at risk, ensuring effective and unbiased police responses, and proper support for affected families and communities. The Committee also called for an independent national inquiry and a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.

    March 06, 2015

    By Jackie Hansen and Craig Benjamin

    Today, a UN expert committee—the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) — released a strongly worded report stating that Canada was responsible for “grave violations” of human rights due its “protracted failure” to do enough to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    March 01, 2015

    By Jackie Hansen and Craig Benjamin

    Last week, the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls brought together family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, national Aboriginal organizations (NAOs), and representatives from the federal, provincial and territorial governments to Ottawa to discuss the need for action to combat the staggeringly high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls. Provinces, territories, and all NAOs are on record as supporting an independent inquiry into the issue.

    February 27, 2015

    A coalition of advocacy groups, Indigenous organizations, and family members continue to demand that the federal government hold a national public inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. In its January 2015 report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights strongly supported a national inquiry because there is "much still to be understood and much to be acknowledged.”  In a report of his visit to Canada in 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights and Freedoms, Dr. James Anaya, also supported the need for a national inquiry, as have Indigenous women and communities, human rights groups, opposition parties and Premiers. 

    A national inquiry is needed to allow all voices to be heard and to educate the public about the root and intersecting causes of violence, systemic poverty, racism, sexism and intergenerational abuse.  It must thoroughly investigate all national, provincial, regional and municipal police practices/policies and make sweeping changes to how Indigenous women and girls are treated in Canada. 

    February 26, 2015

    An alarming study released today shows that governments in Canada have repeatedly ignored expert recommendations to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    Researchers with 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. The reports cover a period of two decades. Shockingly, researchers found that only a few of more than 700 recommendations in these reports have ever been fully implemented.

    February 25, 2015

    Today, Amnesty International has published its global level Annual Report, providing an overview of the state of human rights in the world.  As has been the case for the past ten years, the report includes an entry highlighting a range of human rights concerns in Canada which draws attention to the alarmingly high levels of violence and discrimination against Indigenous women and girls in the country, and the failure of the federal government to launch comprehensive and effective action to address this crisis.  A copy of the entry on Canada is attached.

    This year’s report notes that:

    In May, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported that at least 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered between 1980 and 2012, four and a half times the homicide rate for all other women. Despite mounting demands, including by provincial and territorial governments, the federal government refused to initiate a national action plan or public inquiry.

    Ten years ago Amnesty International’s Annual Report noted the following:

    February 19, 2015

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    The shocking levels of violence faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls requires nothing less than a comprehensive, coordinated national response to ensure effective, unbiased police investigations, to support the families of those who have been murdered or gone missing, and to address the factors putting Indigenous women in harm’s way in the first place.

    To get there, we need an independent public inquiry to ensure that the policies and programmes that make up a national action plan are based on a clear, unbiased understanding of the issues, and help hold government accountable for acting on the recommendations brought forward by affected families, communities and Indigenous peoples’ organizations.

    Next week, a national roundtable on missing and murdered Indigenous women will focus public attention on the need for action.

    More than 50 Canadian artists speak out against violence against Indigenous women
    Order “Kwe” and support Amnesty’s No More Stolen Sisters campaign

    Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters is a 100-page anthology edited by Joseph  Boyden, featuring new writing and original artwork from more than fifty contributors, including Sherman Alexie, Margaret Atwood, Gord Downie, Julie Flett, Tom King, Lee Maracle, Yann Martel, Michael Ondaatje, John Ralston Saul and Tanya Tagaq Gillis.  Kwe was conceived by Boyden as a way to raise awareness of the crisis facing Indigenous women in Canada.

    January 12, 2015

    A report released today by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adds further weight to calls for a comprehensive national response to violence against Indigenous women and girls, including an independent public inquiry.

    The 125 page report on missing and murdered Indigenous women in British Columbia was released today at Commission headquarters in Washington, DC.
    Amnesty International strongly supports the recommendations in the Commission’s report and urges the government of Canada and the province of British Columbia to live up to the international human rights obligations that it highlights.

    While acknowledging a number of initiatives already taken by the federal government and the province of British Columbia, the Commission states that such measures will not end the violence “unless the underlying factors of discrimination that originate and exacerbate the violence are also comprehensively addressed.”

    January 05, 2015

    By: Alex Neve and Béatrice Vaugrante Published on Fri Jan 02 2015 in the Toronto Star

    No doubt about it, 2014 has been a tough year for human rights. As we look ahead into 2015, with a federal election sometime in the next 10 months, it is time to turn things around. That means addressing serious concerns in Canada and championing improvements around the world.

    Every year has its share of human rights heartbreak, but 2014 was particularly heavy. The wrenching catastrophe that has displaced half of all Syrians worsened. Tragedies in the Central African Republic and South Sudan claimed more victims. Another cycle of rocket attacks and reprisals in Israel and Gaza was marked by an exceptionally fierce Israeli military assault on Gaza. Unexpected and devastating conflicts erupted in Ukraine and northern Iraq.

    November 28, 2014

    Lorelei Williams is the founder of Butterflies and Spirit, a group of Indigenous women who have used dance to raise awareness of missing and murdered Women.

    We interviewed Lorelei as part of a series of conversations with Indigenous women activists marking the 10th anniversary of our 2004 Stolen Sisters report.

    1.      What was the idea behind Butterflies in Spirit?

    On October 4th 2011, I was at a vigil for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. I was there by myself. Molly Dixon had gotten up to speak about her daughter Angeline Pete who recently went missing in May 2011. When she spoke I couldn’t help but cry. Someone saw me crying, they came over, gave me a big hug, and a poster. This poster had newspaper clippings glued all over it. I noticed people trying to read what was on my poster. I didn’t even know what was on my poster, I just knew it had to do with missing and murdered women. A thought came to me about how I could get my missing Aunt Belinda Williams' picture out there.

    November 27, 2014

    By Cindy Ko and Adotei Akwei from Amnesty International USA

    It is time for the Obama administration to ensure implementation of standardized sexual assault policies aimed at helping ensure that Indigenous survivors of sexual violence  can access medical treatment and support services. Indigenous women face disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence.

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) compiled statistics that show over one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped during their lifetimes. They are also 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.

    In order to achieve justice, survivors frequently have to navigate a maze of tribal, state and federal law. These complex jurisdictional rules undermine equality before the law and often allow perpetrators to evade justice. At all levels, law enforcement and justice systems are failing to ensure justice for Indigenous survivors of sexual violence – their cases may not be investigated, vital evidence may not be collected via a “rape kit” and their cases may never be prosecuted.

    All governments have a responsibility to do everything in their power to prevent violence against women. This includes provincial and territorial governments as well as municipalities. It also includes Indigenous governments and institutions such as Band Councils. All have a shared responsibility to be part of the solution to ending violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    However, the federal government has a particular responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous women and girls.

    Here are some of the reasons why:

    Dr. Cindy Blackstock, a member of the Gitxan Nation, is a prominent researcher and advocate for the rights of children. As Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Cindy has brought a landmark discrimination case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to challenge the federal government’s chronic underfunding of children’s services on First Nations reserves and for First Nations children in the Yukon. The closing arguments in that hearing will take place October 20-24 and will be webcast live at fnwitness.ca.

    We spoke with Cindy as part of a series of conversation with Indigenous advocates and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of Amnesty International’s report Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada.

    October 01, 2014

    To all members of the House of Commons and the Senate,

    Ten years ago, Amnesty International published its major report, Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada. The report built on work that Indigenous women and communities had been doing for years, documenting and speaking out for the hundreds of sisters, daughters and mothers taken by violence.  At the time, all parties in the Canadian Parliament made statements affirming that urgent action was needed to stop this violence. Tragically, however, despite some positive initiatives by all levels of government, the response over the last decade has been primarily characterized by a piecemeal, inadequate and poorly coordinated government response to the dire threats facing Indigenous women and girls.

    October 02, 2014

    The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) is an organization by and for Indigenous youth that works across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice throughout Canada and the United States. They have been mobilizing through frontline work in communities for over 10 years, addressing structural and systemic colonial violence. Follow the NYSHN  on Twitter and Facebook.

    Amnesty International talked to members of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network as part of a series of conversations with activists and leaders marking the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report on violence against Indigenous women. We asked the NYSHN for their reflections on progress made and remaining challenges in making sure that there are No More Stolen Sisters. Here is what they had to say.

    October 01, 2014

    Bev Jacobs, a Mohawk lawyer and grandmother from Six Nations, was the lead researcher on Amnesty International’s 2004 Stolen Sisters report.  Bev went on to serve as President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Her cousin Tashina General was murdered in 2008. Bev has recently been working with Ending Violence Association British Columbia, to design and lead knowledge sharing workshops on how to build safety in Indigenous communities. 

    I spoke with Bev as part of a series of conversations with Indigenous women activists and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report and the ongoing struggle to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    What’s the most important thing for Canadians to understand about what’s happening to Indigenous women and girls in this country?

    September 30, 2014

    Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk artist, educator and activist from Kanehsatà:ke, is well known in Canada as a powerful voice for rights of Indigenous peoples. Amnesty International has been honoured to work alongside Ellen on many matters of urgent concern, including the rights and safety of Indigenous women and the promotion of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Amnesty International talked to Ellen as part of a series of conversations with activists and leaders marking the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report on violence against Indigenous women. We asked Ellen for her reflections on progress made and remaining challenges in making sure that there are No More Stolen Sisters. Here is what she had to say.

    Why do you think there has been so little coherent and concrete government response to the high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada?

    Because they don’t care. It profits them to keep us oppressed and to deny that colonialism has anything to do with the whole gamut of problems we have in our communities.

    September 29, 2014

    OTTAWA - With federal political parties preparing for an election year, Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) are calling on Canadians to help make ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls a priority for all politicians. Our organizations will be working with women’s organizations and other allies across Canada to ensure that all parties make tangible commitments to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in the upcoming election.

    Recently released RCMP statistics report the murder of 1017 Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, with more than 100 others remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for unknown reasons.

    NWAC President Michèle Audette told a press conference on Parliament Hill today. “Each woman was somebody. She was also somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, or friend and every one of them deserved to be safe from violence. They deserve more from our Government than excuses and a patchwork of underfunded and inadequate programs and services. We need solutions and actions that will make a difference in women’s lives.”

     

    OTTAWA - With federal political parties preparing for an election year, Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) are calling on Canadians to help make ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls a priority for all politicians. Our organizations will be working with women’s organizations and other allies across Canada to ensure that all parties make tangible commitments to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in the upcoming election.

    Recently released RCMP statistics report the murder of 1017 Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, with more than 100 others remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for unknown reasons.

    NWAC President Michèle Audette told a press conference on Parliament Hill today. “Each woman was somebody. She was also somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, or friend and every one of them deserved to be safe from violence. They deserve more from our Government than excuses and a patchwork of underfunded and inadequate programs and services. We need solutions and actions that will make a difference in women’s lives.”

      By Jacqueline Hansen, Amnesty International's Major Campaigns and Women's Human Rights Campaigner.
      By Jacqueline Hansen, Amnesty International's Major Campaigns and Women's Human Rights Campaigner.

    Holly Jarrett is the grassroots activist behind the “Am I Next?” viral social media campaign. Originally from Labrador and now based in Ontario, she has worked with national Aboriginal organizations, including Inuit organizations, since 1991, and has been a grassroots organizer since 1998. Holly’s cousin, Loretta Saunders, was murdered in Halifax earlier this year. Follow the Am I Next? campaign on Facebook. 

    The scale and severity of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls requires a corresponding commitment by government to ensuring their safety. Amnesty International has long called for a comprehensive, coordinated national plan of action to address gaps in current policies, programs and services; involve Indigenous women’s organizations in identifying the necessary solutions; and ensure accountability in their delivery.

    Your Member of Parliament needs to know that constituents like you are calling for a comprehensive national response to the alarmingly high rates of violence against Indigenous women. 

    Phone or meet with your Member of Parliament (MP) during the week of October 14-17, when MPs are home for the Thanksgiving break week, to express concern about the scale of the violence and to call for a National Action Plan on violence against Indigenous women coupled with a National Public Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

    Who is your MP?

    Find out here.

    September 17, 2014
    How many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing in Canada?

    The best available data, an RCMP report released earlier this year, identifies 1,017 women and girls who were murdered between 1980 and 2012—a homicide rate roughly 4.5 times higher than that of all other women in Canada. In addition, the report states that as of November 2013, at least 105 Indigenous women and girls remained missing under suspicious circumstances or for undetermined reasons.

    As explained below, the actual numbers may be even higher.

    These women were daughters, sisters, mothers and wives. They were loved and valued and they are missed by their families. Every missing or murdered Indigenous woman and girl is a tragedy. The combined numbers are nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    Who is responsible for this violence?

    The RCMP report does not identify how many of the perpetrators are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, but we know from individual cases that attacks on Indigenous women are carried out by Indigenous and non-Indigenous men alike.

    A report released by the RCMP earlier this year marks the first time that police in Canada have attempted, at the national level, to identify how many First Nations, Inuit or Métis women and girls have been murdered or have gone missing.

    According to the report, 1,017 women and girls identified as Indigenous were murdered between 1980 and 2012—a homicide rate roughly 4.5 times higher than that of all other women in Canada.

    In addition, the report states that as of November 2013, at least 105 Indigenous women and girls remained missing under suspicious circumstances or for undetermined reasons.

    These appalling statistics are consistent with previous estimates from sources such as Statistics Canada that have long pointed to a greatly disproportionate level of violence against that First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls. The latest numbers also underline what Indigenous women and advocacy organizations have long been saying–that this violence requires a specific and concerted response from police and all levels of society.

    September 16, 2014
    Given the scale of the violence, the federal government’s response is piecemeal and inadequate. Recognition of the importance of supporting the families of missing and murdered women is welcomed. The federal plan fails to address the need for an independent National Public Inquiry. More is needed to tackle economic marginalization of Indigenous women, support frontline services on and off reserve, and ensure effective and unbiased police response.

    The widespread violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada requires a comprehensive and concerted effort by all levels of government to address the discrimination, marginalization and impoverishment that puts Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way or denies them the chance to escape this violence.

    September 12, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Ten years ago, when Amnesty International released its first research report on missing and murdered Indigenous women, we did not call for a national inquiry.

    At the time, we felt that the most, if not all, the elements of what government needed to do to address the threats to Indigenous women’s lives had already been identified by frontline service providers, affected families and communities, and previous inquiries. Then, as now, what was urgently needed was the political will to consolidate all these measures into a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.
    Ten years have now passed since that initial report. And despite the unprecedented public attention to the issue, and the fact that murders and disappearances continue to steal Indigenous women and girls from their families and communities, Canada still does not have a plan to stem this violence.

    September 09, 2014
    Am I Next - Indigenous women send messages to Canadian government

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada


    The images are haunting. The message shocking. “Am I next?”

    Holly Jarrett, cousin of Loretta Saunders, an Inuk woman murdered in Halifax, NS in February, launched the “Am I next?” social media campaign on Saturday, September 6. It plays on the word “ain,” a term of endearment in her native Inuktituk. Given the alarmingly high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, it is meant to draw attention to a question that Indigenous women and girls have to ask themselves—will they be the next to vanish?

    September 04, 2015

    October marks 11 years since Amnesty International released our “Stolen Sisters” report. In 2004 our report was ground breaking and helped to shine a light on a little known Canadian human rights crisis, and it promoted solutions identified by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and other partners in the Indigenous community.

    Much has changed in the past decade. October 4 has become a national day to commemorate the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; over 200 vigils were held across the country last year. Cross-country walks have been held to raise awareness. Tens of thousands of petition signatures have been handed over to the federal government. Provincial and territorial governments have called for a national inquiry. Two federal Parliamentary Committees have studied the scope of the violence. The issue has been repeatedly raised at the United Nations. Three international missions came to Canada in 2013 to investigate the issue. And in 2014 the RCMP, for the first time ever, reported figures on the scope of the violence.

    June 10, 2014

    June 10, 2014

    The Honourable Peter MacKay
    Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Canada K1A 0A6

    RE: Implementation of existing recommendations needed to address violence against Indigenous women

    Dear Minister MacKay,

    The shocking rate of violence faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls in Canada is nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    Responding to the growing demand for a National Public Inquiry into this crisis, you have repeatedly stated that Canada needs action, not more studies. To support this position you have distributed a list of 40 reports that previously examined the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls or related factors that put Indigenous women and girls at risk.

    Minister MacKay, as an organization that wrote two of the reports on your list, Amnesty International strongly objects to our work being used as a justification for not calling a National Public Inquiry into violence against Indigenous women.

    May 16, 2014

    In a report released today, the RCMP provided further substantiation to its conclusion, made public earlier this month, that 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered between 1980-2012, a homicide rate at least four times higher than that faced by all other women.

    The report also identifies 164 unresolved cases of Indigenous women and girls who have been missing for 30 days or longer.

    While Amnesty International welcomes the efforts made by the RCMP to research and make public these statistics, we are deeply concerned by the fact that the national police service had not previously sought to clarify the extent of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls.

    May 12, 2014

    by Craig Benjamin,
    Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    A leading United Nations human rights expert says the situation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada has reached "crisis proportions in many respects."

    In a just released report, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, highlights a wide range of concerns documented during his 2013 research mission to Canada.

    May 06, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    “What we do not need now is to stop and talk and study. We need more action.” - Federal Justice Minister Peter McKay, March 2014.

    Let’s be clear: we all want action to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

    But we don’t need just any action. We need action that can actually stop the violence tearing First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls from their families. We need action that is coordinated and properly-resourced. And we need action that is based on accurate information and a clear understanding of the true extent and nature of the threats faced based by Indigenous women and girls.

    Unfortunately, that is not the kind of action that the federal government is delivering.

    March 07, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen, Campaigners

    Earlier today, Amnesty International Canada released a press statement expressing deep disappointment over the recommendations in the final report of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, and federal opposition political parties also condemned the report as promoting the status quo and failing to make comprehensive, concrete, time bound recommendations to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    “Indigenous women and girls – and indeed all Canadians – deserve better from our Parliament,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking). “Government ministers keep saying that they want action, not just talk, on violence against Indigenous women. But when given the opportunity to make a commitment to meaningful action, the government keeps endorsing the status quo.”

    March 07, 2014

    For the second time in a little more than two years, a Parliamentary Committee has ignored the need for concrete and comprehensive action to address the shockingly high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

    The report of the Special Committee on Violence against Indigenous Women released in Parliament today, acknowledges that First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls face much higher rates of violence than all other women in Canada.

    However, the report, prepared by the majority Conservative members of the Committee, fails to call for the critical steps that must be taken to bring this crisis to an end.

    Like the report released by the Parliamentary Committee on the Status of Women in December 2011, the report endorses existing government initiatives while vaguely calling for “further examination” of other issues. No indication was given about how or when the Committee members think such “examination” should take place. Concrete proposals for action presented by Indigenous women’s organizations and families of missing and murdered women are ignored.

    March 03, 2014
    Family and friends of Loretta hold signs at Grand Parad ©Jeff Harper/Metro Halifax
    By, Kim Irving Cahill, Maritimes Regional Activism Coordinator

    Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Loretta Saunders, a young Inuk women who went missing in Halifax on February 13th and whose body was found in New Brunswick on February 26th. Loretta was from Labrador, attending Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and working on her honors thesis on the subject of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    I had the privilege of meeting several of Loretta’s family members and friends. In the days following the tragic news of her death, her family gracefully reached out to the community in gratitude and to ensure that the issue close to Loretta’s heart isn’t forgotten.  Efforts have now turned to carrying on the light of Loretta’s legacy by raising awareness, working to prevent violence against Indigenous women and by drawing attention to the higher risks they face.

    February 07, 2014

    The scale and severity of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada—First Nations, Inuit and Métis—constitutes a national human rights crisis. Despite the vast scale and entrenched nature of the crisis, and the many calls for action made by Indigenous peoples’ organizations, civil society groups, provincial and territorial government leaders, Parliamentarians, and international and national human rights bodies, the Canadian government has failed to implement a comprehensive and coordinated national response in keeping with the seriousness and pervasiveness of the threats.

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    On Tuesday morning Bridget Tolley did what no mother wants to do—search for her missing daughter. Laura Spence and her friend Nicole Whiteduck were last seen on Sunday morning in Kitigan Zibi, a community north of Ottawa.

    Tolley is the co-founder of the grassroots organization Families of Sisters in Spirit—one of Amnesty International’s key partners in the Stolen Sisters campaign to end violence against Indigenous women in Canada. She provides support to Indigenous families across Canada whose daughters, sisters, mothers, and aunties have gone missing or been murdered. And while she understands very well the pain of losing a loved one—her mother was killed in 2001 by a police cruiser—until this week she had not experienced what many of the families she works with have gone through when a loved one vanishes.

    October 02, 2013

    Indigenous women are going missing and being murdered at a much higher rate than other women in Canada—a rate so high it constitutes nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    According to RCMP data, at least 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered from 1980-2012.

    Amnesty International is calling for a comprehensive, coordinated, and well-resourced National Action Plan, created in collaboration with Indigenous women and girls, to stop the violence.

    A National Action Plan must address the root causes of violence and identify holistic, culturally-appropriate ways in which to prevent violence and to support those impacted by violence. The National Action Plan should include a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls - focused on exposing the nature of this violence and on ensuring government and police accountability for an effective and coordinated response.

    September 19, 2013

    In presenting a deeply disappointing report today at the UN Human Rights Council, outlining Canada’s response to a review of the country’s human rights record carried out in April 2013, the Canadian government has squandered a valuable opportunity to move forward in addressing important national human rights concerns and to demonstrate human rights leadership on the world stage.

    Canada was reviewed under the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process on April 26 and 30.  Other countries, including many of Canada’s closest allies, highlighted a wide range of concerns and made recommendations to Canada regarding steps to improve human rights protection in the country.

    April 11, 2013

    By Jacqueline Hansen, Amnesty International's Major Campaigns and Women's Human Rights Campaigner.

    “We can start with our future, our children, teach them love instead of hate… Violence, it’s easy to teach violence and hate. Turn that around and teach love, empathy, and we wouldn’t be here today grieving.”
    – Glen Wilson, Father of CJ Morningstar Fowler, a 16-year-old member of the Gitanmaax First Nation, whose body was found outside Kamloops, British Columbia, in December 2012.
     

    February 21, 2013

    Recent comments by the RCMP concerning the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada do a great disservice by creating uncertainty, where clarity and urgency are required. The lives of Indigenous women and girls count. These are some well-document facts and figures about violence against Aboriginal women in Canada:

    December 17, 2012

    (Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C.) Community and advocacy groups who were shut out of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry expressed full support today for the families of the missing and murdered women, and strongly reiterated the call for a national public inquiry into the hundreds of murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls. These organizations also expressed continued support for the previously announced investigation by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The final report by Commissioner Wally Oppal was released to the families this morning at 9:00 a.m. and to the general public at 1:00 p.m.

    The Inquiry has been deeply and systemically flawed from the beginning. The voices and experiences of Downtown Eastside women, Aboriginal organizations and women's groups were shut out. Family members' needs and wishes have been, and continue to be, blatantly disregarded and disrespected, and the proceedings favoured police and police evidence. This failed Inquiry, far from assisting Aboriginal women and women from the Downtown Eastside, has ironically reinforced their marginalization.

    December 17, 2012

    The final report of the British Columbia Missing Women Inquiry will be released today, December 17th. Amnesty International continues to stand in solidarity with all the families whose sisters and daughters were murdered or who remain missing.

    Today, we are joining a coalition of more than 25 Indigenous peoples' organizations, women's groups and frontline service providers to issue a joint statement of support for the families, to be released after the Inquiry report is made public.

    The report itself is estimated to be about 1500 pages long. We will join with partners and allies to respond to the report itself once we have had more time to review the content in depth.

    We are continuing to call for a comprehensive and coordinated response to violence experienced by Indigenous women across Canada.

    May 11, 2012

    Do you see how I see?

    Many ghosts in the afterglow of sunset nights
    Nature's beauty lost by the loss of human rights
    Daughters deserted, mothers are murdered: the women of First Nations
    The afterglow is filled with all of our relations

    These words begin a powerful performance written by artists Khodi Dill and Theresa Point. The video Stop the Silence is being released today as part of a new online initiative to raise awareness of violence against Indigenous women and to raise funds for a gathering of affected families and ensure that they get the supports they need in their struggle for justice.

    The Embracing the Families initiative is a collaboration between Beverley Jacobs, a highly respected advocate for the rights of Indigenous women and long-time partner of Amnesty International, and Mix 3 Productions, an Aboriginal owned media company based in Vancouver.

    December 12, 2011

    A new report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women offers no real solutions to the widespread threats to the lives of Indigenous women in Canada.

    Last March, the Committee issued an interim report that called for a comprehensive, strategic and coordinated approach to end the vastly disproportionate rates of violence against Indigenous women. The final report tabled in Parliament today drops the call for a comprehensive response and instead focuses primarily on government initiatives that are already underway.

    Although the report discusses the housing crisis plaguing many Indigenous communities, the severe shortage of emergency shelters for Indigenous women, and the large numbers of Indigenous children being placed in foster care, the report offers no recommendations for countering these critical obstacles to Indigenous women escaping violence.

    April 13, 2012

    Amnesty International has joined 14 other groups, including the Vancouver February 14th Women's Memorial March Committee, the Native Women's Association, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, in announcing that our organizations are unwilling to lend credibility to the deeply flawed B.C. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry by participating in its upcoming policy review processes.

    In letters issued today, a wide range of organizations that had been invited to participate in upcoming Policy Forums and Study Commission, detailed a series of fundamental concerns about the Commission's ability to reach a fair and unbiased conclusion.

    To read the Coalition's letter, click here

    Photo: 14 organizations, including Amnesty International, have formed a coalition to express their concern and anger about the performance of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

     

    May 06, 2014
    Banner - Aboriginal women are loved and valued

    "Hundreds upon hundreds of our sisters and daughters have gone missing or been murdered. Putting a few dollars into the kind of police work that happens anyway is not a solution. We need a concrete national plan of action that will bring real change in our lives."
    - Bernadette Smith, sister of 21-year-old Claudette Osborne who vanished from Winnipeg in July 2008.

    In May 2014, for the first time ever, the RCMP released figures on the scale and scope of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Their figures show that 1,017 Indigenous women were murdered between 1980 and 2012, a homicide rate at least four times higher than that faced by all other women in Canada. But even these figures may underestimate the scale and severity of the threat to Indigenous women's lives since many police forces still routinely fail to record whether or not the victims of violent crime are Indigenous.

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