Vancouver, B.C., Coast Salish Territory [February 27, 2015]—A coalition of advocacy groups, Indigenous organizations, and family members continue to demand that the federal government hold a national public inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.
In its January 2015 report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights strongly supported a national inquiry because there is "much still to be understood and much to be acknowledged.” n a report of his visit to Canada in 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights and Freedoms, Dr. James Anaya, also supported the need for a national inquiry, as have Indigenous women and communities, human rights groups, opposition parties and Premiers.
A national inquiry is needed to allow all voices to be heard and to educate the public about the root and intersecting causes of violence, systemic poverty, racism, sexism and intergenerational abuse. It must thoroughly investigate all national, provincial, regional and municipal police practices/policies and make sweeping changes to how Indigenous women and girls are treated in Canada.
The coalition acknowledges that the federal and provincial/territorial governments and Indigenous advocacy groups are meeting today at a national roundtable on this issue, but stresses that the roundtable cannot address the root causes of the tragic reality that Indigenous women and girls continue to be assaulted, go missing and are murdered at a shockingly disproportionate rate. A one-day family gathering occurred yesterday which provided space for the voices of families who were able to attend; however, there are still hundreds of families that need to have their voices heard. A peoples’ roundtable is also occurring today but those voices will not be heard at the main political roundtable.
A report released yesterday by a legal strategy group on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada reviewed 58 studies, reports and inquiries and found that the governments have only fully implemented a handful of recommendations, while hundreds have been made. This is absolutely unacceptable, and we call on the governments in Canada to review this important report and act swiftly on the recommendations, including the glaring need for a national public inquiry leading to a comprehensive and coordinated national strategy.
The coalition is well aware that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt is on record agreeing with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a national inquiry is not needed. We are further concerned that the government has repeatedly resorted to inflammatory and misleading language, such as the Minister’s comment that “if the [Indigenous] guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that’s how they are treated,” which deflect the government’s own responsibilities by blaming Indigenous societies and cultures. Former Commissioner Wally Oppal who headed the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia has also stated that a national inquiry is not needed and that the MWCI fulfilled the need for any investigation in British Columbia. These statements from public officials are completely opposite to what the grassroots, Indigenous and women’s organizations, and research demonstrates, and contribute to the institutionalized discrimination that Indigenous women and girls face.
The coalition will continue supporting the family members and working at the grassroots levels to advance justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and will continue to relentlessly pursue a national public inquiry leading to a comprehensive and coordinated strategy.
Read the Legal Strategy Coalition’s full report here.