The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador has formally requested that the United Nations address systemic discrimination and violence against Indigenous women in Quebec.
A presentation titled “Honouring the victims, bearing the voice of the survivors” was delivered April 24 at UN headquarters in New York City during a session of the UN’s Permanent forum on Indigenous issues.
The AFNQL’s objective was to expose the international community to the mistreatment of Indigenous women in the Quebec justice system. The organization hopes the UN will review specific cases of police discrimination towards First Nations women and call on the provincial government to mandate changes in policy and procedure.
In a press release, the AFNQL stated that it organized the event “in support of using the appropriate UN mechanisms to receive Indigenous women’s discrimination complaints, particularly those who have experienced police abuses in Val-d’Or.”
Lac Simon Chief Adrienne Jérôme and Verna Polson, the Grand Chief of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council, spoke at the forum and outlined the feelings of distrust that Native women have toward police forces in Quebec.
“Many women no longer believe in this system that has betrayed them and has not been able to protect them,” said Jérôme. “I am here to support their voices and to launch an international appeal so that they can obtain justice and respect of their human rights.”
“With the evidence presented to the two commissions of inquiry, we are still concerned that the Sûreté du Québec or other police forces could commit unacceptable and criminal acts with impunity,” added Polson, referencing the allegations of abuse by police in Val-d’Or. “The SQ has never apologized or initiated any dialogue with First Nations. This situation is deplorable and must be denounced.”
The AFNQL’s intention to use international platforms to seek justice for Quebec’s First Nations women was previously expressed at hearings for the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Women and Girls as well as at the Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services as Quebec – commonly known as the Viens Commission.
AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard led the delegation, accompanied by Sharon Hunter from Long Point First Nation, Quebec Native Women President Viviane Michel, and by AFNQL lawyer Wina Sioui.
“Justice for the women of our Nations can no longer wait,” said Picard, speaking at the UN side event.
Picard called for incidents of police abuse and discrimination to be subject to review by UN organizations, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
“Our issues have been the subject of several commissions and hundreds of recommendations, yet few impacts allow us to believe in change,” Picard concluded.