The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has given the federal government a failing grade based on its handling and response to the final report from the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). June 3 marked one year since the report was released and still the government has not come up with an action plan based on the recommendations in the report.
The organization created a report card based on the government’s response – or what NWAC President Lorraine Whitman calls a “lack of response” to the report over the past year. The marks show a failing grade.
“We had looked at the 231 Calls to Justice. We just went into four separate fields. Those were with health, culture, security and justice to see what had been done in those areas. There was nothing that was done in those areas,” expressed Whitman.
The government stated late last year that a national action plan would be in place by June of this year. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett recently announced that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the action plan has been delayed and therefore the timeline for the creation of the document is open.
Whitman said it is inexcusable that after a year the government still does not have any sort of action plan.
“That doesn’t hold water in my mind,” she commented. “Covid has been around only for three months so they had nine good months to do some work on it. Even if they had a partial document, it would be a living document.”
Whitman said the government’s only response has been to continue consultations with various organizations across the country. During the pandemic, she said they are being done via Zoom and often include hundreds of people on the calls.
“When you’ve already done three years of consultation and have a 1,200-page document which at the end says ‘genocide’, would you not want to start making the wrongs right?”
She pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the situation of Indigenous women. According to a survey on the NWAC website, which has over 800 respondents, 17% of Indigenous women in Canada have experienced violence in the past three months. In the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, it’s 18%.
Whitman spoke about Chantel Moore, the 26-year-old Indigenous woman who was shot and killed during a wellness check by a police officer in Edmundston, New Brunswick. The incident happened on the anniversary of the release of the final report on MMIWG and the same day that the national action plan was expected to be ready.
“It’s time to stop consulting. It’s time for action to stop the violence, the discrimination and MMIWG. Here we are, it’s date of the anniversary and another woman has lost her life,” said Whitman.
The government should work collaboratively with NWAC to create an action plan, but Whitman says this is not happening.
The organization has already reached out to the government to contribute ideas. In May, a document was sent to the government with an eight-point plan outlining how NWAC could participate in addressing the 231 Calls for Justice.
NWAC is asking Ottawa to implement certain measures immediately, one of which is establishing a national task force of independent investigators to review or investigate unresolved MMWIG cases. They are also calling for a national database to get an accurate number of MMIWG, as well as a national educational campaign on raising awareness on racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
“We gave them that information so that they would be able to use it and implement it into their plan, but they didn’t even acknowledge that they had received it at that time,” said an exasperated Whitman.
Whitman said it’s time to stop talking and for the government to walk the walk. “We all need to be part of the solution to do what’s right. It’s not only our duty, it’s our obligation. We need to be out there to stop the violence and discrimination to end MMIWG and gender-diverse.”