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OFOVC Statement on the one-year anniversary of Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

June 3, 2020 - While survivors, families, advocates, and supporters of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) are disheartened about the federal government’s announcement to delay the National Action Plan, one of the key Inquiry recommendations, they are not surprised. In recent discussions with the OFOVC’s Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC), we heard from First Nations, Inuit and Métis members that a post-pandemic implementation plan is more important than ever; and that MMIWG families and grassroots organizations must be an integral part of the development of a National Action Plan.

As Ombudsman, I support the 231 Recommendations from the National Inquiry Final Report and believe it is critical for Canada to actionize the Calls for Justice. The realities of MMIWG represent a pandemic of violence, which requires our immediate attention. The National Inquiry work is complete, and we need to honour this work. The families and advocates who gave testimony were very clear; they feel it is time to move forward and that no more consultations are needed.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous women and girls (men and boys too) continue to be victimized in their homes, on the streets, and through social media. It may be better shrouded, but the insidious abuse continues, and is increasing due to the necessary isolation protocols. The heightened needs arising from the COVID-19 crisis have further emphasized a myriad of social services gaps that affect Indigenous people and others who are marginalized. There is a need for a basic living income, more shelters with sufficient personnel, more housing for multi-generational families, food security, improved health resources, better training for emergency personnel on Indigenous culture, access to mental health resources, etc.

Last year on June 3, the Inquiry Commissioners concluded that the brutally high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls amount to a form of “Canadian genocide” – and were rooted in deliberate, ongoing violations of human and Indigenous rights. UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women Dubravka Šimonović found during her visit to Canada in 2019 that, “Indigenous women from First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities face violence, marginalization, exclusion and poverty because of institutional, systemic, multiple intersecting forms of discrimination not addressed adequately by the State.”

The OFOVC’s IAC concedes that Canada’s inadequate response is not to be blamed solely on one Minister– all Ministers and MPs need to be a part of the process and should also be held accountable to Indigenous communities. These Calls for Justice are legal imperatives. I agree wholeheartedly. The decision to delay has been related to the pandemic, and thus incorporating an action plan in the post-pandemic implementation phase ensures it is upfront and centre, and not on the sidelines as it has been for a year now. Moreover, in order to develop a post-pandemic implementation plan that addresses the various communities and issues, families and grassroots organizations must be at the forefront. As one IAC member reminded us, ‘‘nothing about us without us’’.

 


Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime