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.
“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.”
Amnesty International has long stood alongside the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and many other organizations in calling for a national inquiry so that the knowledge and experience of Indigenous women can inform a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan on violence against women.
In dissenting reports also issued today, NDP and Liberal members of the Parliamentary Committee endorsed the calls for a comprehensive national action plan including a national inquiry.
The best available government statistics show that the homicide rate for Indigenous women and girls is at least seven times higher than for all other women in Canada. The Native Women’s Association of Canada has been able to document almost 600 cases of missing and murdered and Indigenous women and girls, mostly from the last two decades, but has said that the actual numbers are almost certainly much higher.
The report acknowledges that the available statistics “reflect only part of a much more serious problem.” However, the report only recommends that governments in Canada “examine the possibility” of collecting more accurate and comprehensive data.
Last year, in a peer review process before the United Nations, many of Canada’s closest allies and trading partners urged Canada to do more to address violence against Indigenous women and girls, including by conducting a national inquiry and implementing a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan. In the coming months, three separate reports from international human rights bodies are expected to comment on Canada’s response to violence against Indigenous women and girls.
“It’s outrageous that the government keeps conducting hearings but Indigenous women have to go to the United Nations just to have their voices heard,” said Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of the Francophone Branch of Amnesty International in Canada. “The federal government has a clear obligation to take every measure in its power to protect the lives of Indigenous women and girls. So long as Canada continues on the path of piecemeal, inadequate responses, it is violating its basic human rights obligations.”
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