Indigenous women in Atlantic Canada fear inaction after MMIWG inquiry’s report

Pat Wise
June 5, 2019

The inquiry, which was beset by delays and staff resignations, opened painful wounds as it heard testimony from 468 family members of missing or murdered women.

The inquiry called on the federal government to create an independent mechanism for reporting annually on how the recommendations are being implemented.

The 1,200-page report called the thousands of incidents of often-fatal violence "nothing less than the deliberate, often covert campaign of genocide".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on the first full day of Women Deliver 2019, an worldwide conference on gender equity being held in Vancouver this week.

But Trudeau says people are wrapped up in the use the powerful term, when the focus should be on how to put an end to the issues raised by the inquiry.

"As a warrior, I call on the federal, provincial, municipal, and First Nations leaders to walk this journey with me to ensure we see the report's recommendations come to fruition". She says the use of the term genocide is an accurate description of her life as an Indigenous woman in Canada.

In their report, the inquiry's commissioners argue that through its actions and omissions, Canada has been - and continues to be - complicit in a "genocide" against Indigenous women and girls.

It concluded that the deaths and disappearances of the women in recent decades constituted a "national genocide".

When addressing the report today, Justin Trudeau has refrained from describing the violence and deaths as a genocide, according to CTV News.

"The unfortunate truth is that we live in a world where rights are increasingly under threat", Trudeau said in a brief announcement.

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Before introducing the speakers for the press conference, emcee Rhiannon Bennett, the first Indigenous person to be elected to the Delta Board of Education, expressed her frustrations with the leak of the inquiry's report to CBC and the Toronto Star on Friday.

"I call on the government to take [the report] seriously and tomorrow make me equal to my male counterparts in law".

"This", she said to a growing chorus of cheers and applause, "is genocide".

Danielle Ewenin says she attended a commission hearing in Saskatchewan in 2017 to testify about her sister.

"To them I say, we as a nation can not afford not to rebuild", Marion Buller wrote.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police report before the inquiry was formed found that while Indigenous women represented about 4.3 per cent of the total female population, they accounted for 16 per cent of all female homicide victims.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour, Patty Hajdu, said the action plan has to have concrete steps to build on the work already being done by the government.

The funding will help make sure women and girls around the world have access to the quality health services, including safe and legal abortion, and support women's right to make their own decisions about their bodies, Trudeau said.

The inquiry report said police and the justice system need to acknowledge that the historical and current relationship with Indigenous people has been largely defined by "colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination, and fundamental cultural and societal differences". In 2014, the RCMP released a national overview and pegged the number of cases from between 1980 and 2012 at almost 1,200.

As $700 million of that $1.4 billion will go to specifically safeguard reproductive rights, what does this mean for women in the future?

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