Canada: National crisis of violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit persons requires comprehensive and coordinated government response
OTTAWA, June 3, 2019 – Responding to “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” Amnesty International urges all governments in Canada to move beyond the piecemeal approach to ending the violence that has tragically failed First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, two-spirit people, families, and communities.
The National Inquiry’s final report states, “Colonial violence, as well as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, has become embedded in everyday life – whether this is through interpersonal forms of violence, through institutions like the health care system and the justice system, or in the laws, policies and structures of Canadian society. The result has been that many Indigenous people have grown up normalized to violence, while Canadian society shows an appalling apathy to addressing the issue.”
The report further states, “Nothing will improve the current situation unless there is will to address the root cause of this ongoing crisis, the profound multi-institutional indifference toward violence directed at Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”
Amnesty International welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments, which commit the government of Canada to “develop and implement a National Action Plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.”
Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English) said, “Governments in Canada, indeed Canadian society as a whole, have ignored and downplayed the shocking levels of violence faced by Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons. We hope the Inquiry report will be the catalyst for all governments to finally commit to the kind of comprehensive, systematic, and coordinated national response necessitated by what is truly a human rights emergency. As a crucial step in that direction, as we look ahead to the federal election in October, we call on all federal political parties to similarly commit to a National Action Plan in keeping with Call for Justice 1.1.”
The report’s “Calls for Justice” require both broad and specific changes to numerous institutions, programs, and policies, as well as increased funding across all jurisdictions in Canada, to truly address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. Amnesty International welcomes the recommendation for “long-term sustainable funding of Indigenous-led, low-barrier shelters, safe spaces, transition homes, second-stage housing and services for Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people” such that all Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons have access to culturally-appropriate services wherever they reside.
The Calls for Justice in the National Inquiry’s final report also include:
Indigenous governments and institutions, and federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, to develop and implement a national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons;
The design and delivery of social services to Indigenous peoples to be carried out on a basis of respect for human rights, with no barriers to accessibility based on where people live;
Long-term, sustained, and equitable funding to address the large gaps in government services that deny substantive equality to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and two-spirit persons, including those who have experienced violence;
Elimination of all sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act;
The creation of task force empowered to review and potentially re-open police investigations where there are concerns that cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons have not been properly handled;
Consistent collection and public release of disaggregated data concerning levels of violence against Métis, First Nations, and Inuit women, girls, and two-spirit persons, including numbers of missing persons and homicides;
Measures to address the rapid turnover of police personnel assigned to northern and remote communities; and
Consideration of gender impacts and identification of mitigation strategies at all stages in the planning, assessment, implementation, and monitoring of resource development projects.
One month ago, Amnesty International, Indigenous peoples’ organizations, women’s rights, and other equality-seeking organizations submitted a joint open letter to Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett setting out the critical importance of a clear federal commitment to action before the current session of Parliament ends later this month.
The National Inquiry is the second commission of inquiry to find that Canada is responsible for genocide against Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established that colonial laws and policies had the expressed intent of destroying Indigenous societies in Canada. The National Inquiry links violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons to the legacy of these genocidal laws and policies and the continuation of the same social attitudes.
“Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission before it, the National Inquiry has invited all concerned individuals to help end this grave human rights crisis by confronting sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and colonialism and demanding more and better of our governments and public institutions,” said France-Isabelle Langlois, directrice générale of Amnistie internationale Canada francophone. “Amnesty International acknowledges the decades of grassroots activism led by Indigenous women that have brought us to where we are now. We commit to continued solidarity with these activists to ensure that Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons in Canada can live in safety and dignity, free from violence and discrimination.”
As a Party with Standing to the National Inquiry, Amnesty International had advance access to the National Inquiry’s final report. We will be in a position to comment further in the coming days as we have a chance to fully review the report’s findings and recommendations.