Regional human rights body condemns Canada’s failure to address crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women
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.”
The report urges governments in Canada to deal with “the persistence of longstanding social and economic marginalization through effective measures to combat poverty, improve education and employment, guarantee adequate housing and address the disproportionate application of criminal law against indigenous people.”
The Commission is also critical of governments in Canada for failing to adequately involve Indigenous women and Indigenous women’s organizations in developing solutions to the human rights violations that they face.
The Commission states that “active participation of indigenous women in the design and implementation of initiatives, programs and policies at all levels of government” is “crucial for the success of any initiative, especially given the context of historical and structural discrimination. “ The report calls for greater coordination across government departments and across jurisdictions and for measures to ensure that solutions that are developed are grounded in an adequate understanding of the nature of the violence and of Indigenous women.
The report calls on Canada to address gaps in information and understanding through ongoing systematic collection of accurate police statistics on numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and a national public inquiry in which the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and others with first hand knowledge and experience of the issues could be heard.
The Commission also notes that the British Columbia Missing Women Inquiry found “irregularities” in police actions and procedures leading to a failure to fully and adequately investigate the disappearance of women from the Downtown Eastside and calls for police across Canada to build on this Inquiry’s findings to improve investigations. The report also calls for increased accountability—“preferably through independent bodies” —for police responsible for such investigations.
The report states that a “failure to act with due diligence with respect to cases of violence against women is a form of discrimination. The lack of due diligence in cases of violence against indigenous women is especially grave as it affects not only the victims, but also their families and the communities to which they belong.”
The Commission monitors government compliance with the regional human rights instruments of the Organization of American States, of which Canada is a member.
The Commission began investigating violence against Indigenous women in British Columbia in 2012 as a result of concerns submitted by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Feminist Alliance for International Action. Commission members visited Vancouver, Prince George, and Ottawa in 2013 to meet with Indigenous women, police, government and civil society organizations.
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