Canada: No more Stolen Sisters
"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.
The federal government has acknowledged that the violence faced by Indigenous women is rooted in discrimination, impoverishment and inequality. Government officials have repeatedly stated that the situation demands action, not more study. But measures to date have been woefully inadequate to address the scale and severity of the violence or to deal with the underlying factors of discrimination and poverty that contribute to the threats to Indigenous women and girls.
The federal response has focused primarily on police tools and powers. This is not enough. A more comprehensive response is needed to address the discrimination and inequality that puts Indigenous women at risk or denies them adequate protection.
A national action plan and a national public inquiry are both needed if Canada wants to seriously tackle the high rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls.
Across Canada, Indigenous women's organizations, provincial and territorial governments, and a wide range of social justice organizations have called for a public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. An inquiry doesn't have to be just another study. An inquiry can be a crucial tool to ensure that government listens to the affected families and communities who best understand the issues and acts on the solutions that they have already identified.
Canada has an international human rights obligation to enact a national action plan on violence against women. Such a plan can include concrete strategies to prevent violence as well as remedies in place to support victims of violence.
Please join the call for meaningful and effective action to stop violence against Indigenous women. Support the call for a national action plan in violence against women coupled with a national public inquiry—and a commitment to act on the recommendations of such an inquiry. The scale and severity of violence faced by Indigenous women demands nothing less.
Individual letters are still one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate public demands for action. Please write an urgent letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, supporting the call for a comprehensive national response to this Canadian human rights crisis which includes a national action plan on violence against women and a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Please consider making the following points:
- Introduce yourself and where you are from.
- The scale and severity of violence faced by First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls is nothing less than a national human rights tragedy.
- The root causes of violence include discrimination, sexism, and poverty, and require solutions that address these inequalities—law and order solutions alone won’t work. Many ministries across many jurisdictions need to work together to tackle the root causes of the violence.Measures taken to date, such as the funding provided to create a national missing persons database, are simply not enough to address violence that is so widespread, so severe, and so deeply rooted in the discrimination and marginalization faced by Indigenous women in Canada.
- Urge the government to agree to a national public inquiry so that future action can be well-informed by the experience of affected families and communities and will incorporate the solutions that they identify.
- Note that Canada has supported UN General Assembly resolutions calling on all states to implement comprehensive, coordinated national action plans to end violence against women.
- Call on the federal government to end the double standard and work with Indigenous women to implement the kind of national action plan that Canada recommends to other countries.
The Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Canada K1A 0A6
(Mail to this House of Commons address can be sent without postage.)
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister