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No More Stolen Sisters

    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.

    October 01, 2014

    Bev Jacobs, a Mohawk lawyer and grandmother from Six Nations, was the lead researcher on Amnesty International’s 2004 Stolen Sisters report.  Bev went on to serve as President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Her cousin Tashina General was murdered in 2008. Bev has recently been working with Ending Violence Association British Columbia, to design and lead knowledge sharing workshops on how to build safety in Indigenous communities. 

    I spoke with Bev as part of a series of conversations with Indigenous women activists and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of the Stolen Sisters report and the ongoing struggle to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    What’s the most important thing for Canadians to understand about what’s happening to Indigenous women and girls in this country?

    September 30, 2014

    Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk artist, educator and activist from Kanehsatà:ke, is well known in Canada as a powerful voice for rights of Indigenous peoples. Amnesty International has been honoured to work alongside Ellen on many matters of urgent concern, including the rights and safety of Indigenous women and the promotion of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Amnesty International talked to Ellen 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 Ellen for her reflections on progress made and remaining challenges in making sure that there are No More Stolen Sisters. Here is what she had to say.

    Why do you think there has been so little coherent and concrete government response to the high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada?

    Because they don’t care. It profits them to keep us oppressed and to deny that colonialism has anything to do with the whole gamut of problems we have in our communities.

    September 29, 2014

    OTTAWA - With federal political parties preparing for an election year, Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) are calling on Canadians to help make ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls a priority for all politicians. Our organizations will be working with women’s organizations and other allies across Canada to ensure that all parties make tangible commitments to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in the upcoming election.

    Recently released RCMP statistics report the murder of 1017 Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, with more than 100 others remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for unknown reasons.

    NWAC President Michèle Audette told a press conference on Parliament Hill today. “Each woman was somebody. She was also somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, or friend and every one of them deserved to be safe from violence. They deserve more from our Government than excuses and a patchwork of underfunded and inadequate programs and services. We need solutions and actions that will make a difference in women’s lives.”

    September 17, 2014
    How many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing in Canada?

    The best available data, an RCMP report released earlier this year, identifies 1,017 women and girls who 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.

    As explained below, the actual numbers may be even higher.

    These women were daughters, sisters, mothers and wives. They were loved and valued and they are missed by their families. Every missing or murdered Indigenous woman and girl is a tragedy. The combined numbers are nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    Who is responsible for this violence?

    The RCMP report does not identify how many of the perpetrators are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, but we know from individual cases that attacks on Indigenous women are carried out by Indigenous and non-Indigenous men alike.

    September 16, 2014
    Given the scale of the violence, the federal government’s response is piecemeal and inadequate. Recognition of the importance of supporting the families of missing and murdered women is welcomed. The federal plan fails to address the need for an independent National Public Inquiry. More is needed to tackle economic marginalization of Indigenous women, support frontline services on and off reserve, and ensure effective and unbiased police response.

    The widespread violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada requires a comprehensive and concerted effort by all levels of government to address the discrimination, marginalization and impoverishment that puts Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way or denies them the chance to escape this violence.

    September 12, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Ten years ago, when Amnesty International released its first research report on missing and murdered Indigenous women, we did not call for a national inquiry.

    At the time, we felt that the most, if not all, the elements of what government needed to do to address the threats to Indigenous women’s lives had already been identified by frontline service providers, affected families and communities, and previous inquiries. Then, as now, what was urgently needed was the political will to consolidate all these measures into a comprehensive, coordinated national action plan.
    Ten years have now passed since that initial report. And despite the unprecedented public attention to the issue, and the fact that murders and disappearances continue to steal Indigenous women and girls from their families and communities, Canada still does not have a plan to stem this violence.

    September 09, 2014
    Am I Next - Indigenous women send messages to Canadian government

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada


    The images are haunting. The message shocking. “Am I next?”

    Holly Jarrett, cousin of Loretta Saunders, an Inuk woman murdered in Halifax, NS in February, launched the “Am I next?” social media campaign on Saturday, September 6. It plays on the word “ain,” a term of endearment in her native Inuktituk. Given the alarmingly high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, it is meant to draw attention to a question that Indigenous women and girls have to ask themselves—will they be the next to vanish?

    June 10, 2014

    June 10, 2014

    The Honourable Peter MacKay
    Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Canada K1A 0A6

    RE: Implementation of existing recommendations needed to address violence against Indigenous women

    Dear Minister MacKay,

    The shocking rate of violence faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls in Canada is nothing less than a national human rights crisis.

    Responding to the growing demand for a National Public Inquiry into this crisis, you have repeatedly stated that Canada needs action, not more studies. To support this position you have distributed a list of 40 reports that previously examined the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls or related factors that put Indigenous women and girls at risk.

    Minister MacKay, as an organization that wrote two of the reports on your list, Amnesty International strongly objects to our work being used as a justification for not calling a National Public Inquiry into violence against Indigenous women.

    May 16, 2014

    In a report released today, the RCMP provided further substantiation to its conclusion, made public earlier this month, that 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered between 1980-2012, a homicide rate at least four times higher than that faced by all other women.

    The report also identifies 164 unresolved cases of Indigenous women and girls who have been missing for 30 days or longer.

    While Amnesty International welcomes the efforts made by the RCMP to research and make public these statistics, we are deeply concerned by the fact that the national police service had not previously sought to clarify the extent of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls.

    May 12, 2014

    by Craig Benjamin,
    Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    A leading United Nations human rights expert says the situation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada has reached "crisis proportions in many respects."

    In a just released report, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, highlights a wide range of concerns documented during his 2013 research mission to Canada.

    May 06, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen

    “What we do not need now is to stop and talk and study. We need more action.” - Federal Justice Minister Peter McKay, March 2014.

    Let’s be clear: we all want action to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

    But we don’t need just any action. We need action that can actually stop the violence tearing First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls from their families. We need action that is coordinated and properly-resourced. And we need action that is based on accurate information and a clear understanding of the true extent and nature of the threats faced based by Indigenous women and girls.

    Unfortunately, that is not the kind of action that the federal government is delivering.

    March 07, 2014

    By Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen, Campaigners

    Earlier today, Amnesty International Canada released a press statement expressing deep disappointment over the recommendations in the final report of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, and federal opposition political parties also condemned the report as promoting the status quo and failing to make comprehensive, concrete, time bound recommendations to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    “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.”

    March 07, 2014

    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.

    March 03, 2014
    Family and friends of Loretta hold signs at Grand Parad ©Jeff Harper/Metro Halifax
    By, Kim Irving Cahill, Maritimes Regional Activism Coordinator

    Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Loretta Saunders, a young Inuk women who went missing in Halifax on February 13th and whose body was found in New Brunswick on February 26th. Loretta was from Labrador, attending Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and working on her honors thesis on the subject of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    I had the privilege of meeting several of Loretta’s family members and friends. In the days following the tragic news of her death, her family gracefully reached out to the community in gratitude and to ensure that the issue close to Loretta’s heart isn’t forgotten.  Efforts have now turned to carrying on the light of Loretta’s legacy by raising awareness, working to prevent violence against Indigenous women and by drawing attention to the higher risks they face.

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