Today on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CFUW calls on political leaders in Canada to intensify efforts to end violence against First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls in Canada.
Ending racial discrimination and violence against indigenous women and girls must be a shared responsibility of government institutions, political leaders, grassroots organizations and citizens. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights chose the theme “The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination” this year to highlight the key role that leaders must play in mobilizing political will.
Tragedies such as the recent homicide of Loretta Saunders, and the growing number of missing and murders indigenous women clearly point to the need for transformative solutions that address the root causes of violence.
Like other organizations, CFUW hoped that the Special Committee on Violence against Indigenous women, convened by the House of Commons, would illuminate such solutions. Unfortunately, the recommendations offered in the Committee report released on March 8, 2014 fall significantly short of what was expected, and received broad criticism from indigenous and human rights organizations for merely “staying the course” on current government initiatives.
The special committee report did not indicate that the Government of Canada is willing to initiate a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, or develop a national action plan to address violence, which the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations maintain are steps that must be urgently taken.
The United Nations has also criticized Canada repeatedly for its underwhelming response to violence against Indigenous women and girls. In 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued recommendations in its Concluding Observations (pp.8-13) to Canada’s Nineteenth and Twentieth Reports of Canada on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples urged Canada in the fall of 2013 to initiate a Public Inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and Canada’s 2nd Universal Periodic Review of its Human Rights obligations culminated in calls from multiple countries to initiate a public inquiry and develop a comprehensive national action plan on violence against women and girls, with a particular focus on indigenous women and girls. The report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review can be accessed here.
The violence indigenous women and girls experience in this country is connected to the broader discrimination that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada continue to face. In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) issued 440 recommendations calling for sweeping changes to the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and governments in Canada. Today, the majority of these recommendations have yet to be implemented.
It is clear that current approaches are not working, and Canada needs our political leaders to step up to the plate today and every day to implement and build on the recommendations from the RCAP, UN and Indigenous leaders to end discrimination and violence against indigenous women and girls.