The dirty, not-so-little secret of violence against Indigenous women and girls in this country and the complete failure of systems – national, provincial and regional – to acknowledge and respond to that violence is out of the closet with the release on June 3rd of “Reclaiming Power and Place,” the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The report does not mince words, calling this history a Canadian genocide and setting out 231 Calls for Justice based on the testimony heard from hundreds of survivors and families across the country.
Chief Commissioner Marion Buller warns that the report is not an easy read. It uses “hard words to address hard truths like genocide, colonization, murder and rape.” As she says:
“The violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual] people is a national tragedy of epic proportion.”
Truths that cannot be unheard
Over nearly three years, the Inquiry received information from more than 2,300 people and heard stories at 15 community meetings held across the country from almost 500 family members of victims as well as survivors of the violence directed at Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
Many of those stories are woven through the report and provide a critical body of truths that all Canadians must be prepared to hear and act on.
The report also contains some unpalatable but undeniable numbers. Here are just two: Indigenous women and girls go missing and are murdered at a rate 12 times higher than women from any other demographic group. While just 4% of the population of women in Canada, Indigenous women and girls made up 25% of all female homicide victims between 2001 and 2015.
The Calls for Justice
The 231 Calls for Justice are framed by a number of principles: the need for a decolonizing approach, the importance of including families and survivors in the implementation of the calls, the importance of focusing on self-determined and Indigenous-led solutions, the necessity of recognizing distinctions among Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people and the need for cultural safety and a trauma-informed approach.
The report notes, before setting out the Calls for Justice in four specific categories, that “there are many truths that we heard that make it clear how these areas are connected and are inseparable.”
Fifty-eight calls to governments at all levels speak to the need for governments to “work to honour Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people and to protect their human and Indigenous rights in the areas of human and Indigenous rights and government obligations, culture, health and wellness, human security and justice.
Specific industries, institutions and services (including the media and social influencers, health and wellness service providers, transportation and hospitality industries, police services, lawyers and law societies, educators, social workers, child welfare services, extractive and development industries and correctional services) are presented with 58 calls that focus on the need for increasing partnerships and proper resourcing and interjurisdictional cooperation.
There are also calls that reflect the importance of the distinctions among various Indigenous communities. These 107 calls speak to the specific needs of Inuit, Metis and 2SLGBTQQIA communities.
Calls for Justice for all Canadians
As the Report says:
“Beyond those Calls aimed at governments or at specific industries or service providers, we encourage every Canadian to consider how they can give life to these Calls for Justice.”
We are called on to:
- Denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people
- Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in our own communities
- Read the report and deepen our knowledge
- Become an ally by using what we learn
- Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia and transphobia
- Protect, support and promote the safety of women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people
- Create time and space for relationships based on respect as human beings, supporting and embracing differences with kindness, love, and respect
- Hold all governments accountable to act on and implement the Calls for Justice
These are challenging calls, but we must respond to them. As Marion Buller says in the Preface to the Report:
“As a nation, we face a crisis: regardless of which number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is cited, the number is too great. The continuing murders, disappearances and violence prove that this crisis has escalated to a national emergency that calls for timely and effective responses. . . .These violations amount to nothing less than the deliberate, often covert campaign of genocide against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. This is not what Canada is supposed to be about; it is not what it purports to stand for.”