The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has released its conclusion in the form of a two-volume report (MMIWG report) that called the violence against indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people a “deliberate, often covert campaign of genocide” and blamed the Canadian government and Canadian society for it. A lot of work remains to be done to reverse the effects of what the inquiry called “cultural genocide” enacted upon First Nations. Many of us were actively involved in supporting the inquiry, now it is up to us to make sure that the lives of women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people and of Indigenous communities are positively impacted.
The report directed 231 “Calls to Justice” at the government, social-service providers, the private sector and Canadian people intended to remediate the persistent inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians and safeguard and promote Indigenous culture and people. Read through these and share them. What happens next will be a litmus test for Canada’s process of national reconciliation. It is also a test for us, as activists and as allies, to make sure that the report’s findings are implemented.
Is it genocide? Tools to explain the use of the term. Right after the report was released, the debate on “genocide or not started.” Ezra Levant started blaming the husbands, boyfriends, friends and families of the women and girls saying it was a slow motion crime not genocide and disavowed Canada’s responsibility. Rob Breakenridge, published the following commentary in the National Post, saying it is not Rwanda and that the use of the term genocide invites international scrutiny and is hyperbole. As Monia Mazigh points out in this article for rabble.ca, this debate is now everywhere in mainstream media, obfuscating what the report called for and we must be able to clearly speak to this issue.
Here is a great article by Andrew Woolford, from The Conversation which explains how the use of the term genocide is meant in the sense of the report and how it provides a structure for reconciliation and owning responsiblity. As Heidi Matthews points out in another great article, by using “genocide,” the national inquiry points at ‘”Canada’s laws, policies, actions and inactions with respects to Indigenous peoples demonstrate a ‘steady intention’ to destroy those peoples ‘physically, biologically, and as social units.'”
In March 2012, an RCMP officer investigating a sexual assault asked an indigenous youth about whether or not she was aroused by the assault. In March 2015, the man who made a 11-cm cut in Cindy Gladue‘s vagina causing her to bleed to death was found not guilty of first degree murder. Here is a list of 35 cases of missing and murdered women compiled by the CBC which authorities, puzzlingly, say do not involve foul play. There are so many cases to point to which show that there is systemic discrimination by authorities.
Who are some of the experts from the frontlines?
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is the national organization which has worked to document the systemic violence impacting Indigenous women, their families and communities for more than four decades. However, no national organization represents all the families, advocacy groups and organizations who have relentlessly kept organizing, marching, protesting, holding vigils and demanding justice. Walking With Our Sisters has compiled a list of the networks and organizations on the frontlines. Please reach out to the organizations on this list to build actions in solidarity with them.
How can we make a difference for women and girls in accordance with international and domestic law?
International legal instruments provide protections for Indigenous people as do Canadian domestic laws, including but not limited to section 35 of the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and other human rights legislation. The national inquiry found that Canada has failed to protect these rights and to acknowledge and remedy the human rights violations and abuses that have been consistently perpetrated against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. The Indigenous Bar has compiled a list of these instruments in one place. Let’s work to ensure that we know about these instruments and are fighting to make sure that they are enforced and concerns raised by international organizations are addressed.
The national inquiry worked over three years to research and document what experts and knowledge-keepers told them and have issued calls to justice directed at the government, social-service providers, the private sector and Canadian people. It is up to us to work as allies to hold governments and each other accountable.