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No More Stolen Sisters

    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.

    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.

     

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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:

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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