Amnesty International responds to launch of National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Press Conference Comments
Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Branch)
It is almost twelve years since Amnesty International launched our Stolen Sisters report, documenting the role of long entrenched discrimination in putting shocking numbers of Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way.
In raising our voice, we joined the Native Women’s Association of Canada; family members of murdered and missing First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls; women and girls who had survived violence; and countless frontline organizations and allies; all of whom had been struggling for years to draw attention to the violence and demand real action to bring it to an end.
Above all else today we honour the steadfast determination of the families who have courageously bared their pain and sorrow to Canada and, in fact, the world in pressing for justice.
It took time, but so many others rallied to their side and stood in solidarity. Growing numbers of Canadians made it clear that they expect their government to take meaningful, long overdue action to acknowledge and stop the national crisis of violence facing Indigenous women and girls.
In June Amnesty International joined with the Native Women’s Association, the Canadian Federation of Students and Holly Jarrett’s remarkable “Am I Next” campaign and presented Ministers with petitions signed by 500,000 Canadians supporting the call for an inquiry and a comprehensive national action plan to stop the violence.
Today’s announcement is a momentous milestone in this long journey. And we certainly commend the government for having launched the Inquiry.
But still there are doubts, uncertainty and concern. Three aspects are particularly preoccupying as they go to the very fundamentals of what this Inquiry must address.
First, the Terms of Reference fail to make it very clear that policing will be carefully and thoroughly examined in the course of the Inquiry. Minister Bennett was emphatic that policing is covered. We will look to the federal provincial and territorial governments to live up to that assurance.
Second, the Terms of Reference offer little concrete assurance to family members who believe that investigations into their loved one’s death or disappearance were never taken seriously. They need somewhere to turn in confidence for answers and the truth.
And third, the Terms of Reference very crucially talk of this being a National Inquiry but fail to give confidence that provincial and territorial governments are as committed as the federal government is to it going forward. In its announcement today, the federal government said that the provinces and territories are passing orders in council to facilitate their cooperation with the Inquiry. We look forward to having greater clarity on their role and commitments.
These and other challenges lie ahead. Federal government leadership will be needed to ensure these do not become obstacles or shortcomings.
We welcome the federal government’s promise that it will not wait for the conclusion of the Inquiry to act on solutions that have already been identified. As the Inquiry now moves forward, we will be calling on the government to develop and implement a parallel plan of action so that Indigenous women and girls can and do receive the protection and support that they have been long denied.