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No More Stolen Sisters

    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.

    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.

    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

    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.

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