While Stephen Harper continues to deny the need for a national inquiry into the over 1,200 murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada, his Conservative government has now unveiled its own plan on how to tackle the issue, a report calling for action. This said, the government already has at its resource a list of 40 studies conducted on the issue between 1996 and 2013, pretty much saying the same thing.
Rejecting the need for an inquiry based on Harper aversion to sociology, his new plan claims to take important steps to, “address violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women and girls.”
On Monday September 15, 2014, Harper announced a $25-million, five-year plan which would tackle the issue in “high-risk communities,” within the context of the Economic Action Plan 2014 budget.
The Harper government claims this action plan was in response to the recommendations made by the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. Citing the need for “action,” the government acknowledged that Canada has to move beyond commissioning report after report, with another report.
Action in the form of funding policing since Harper considers the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women a crime problem.
To begin, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) would receive $8.6 million of the overall fund spread over five years to identify and support these “high-risk communities.”
$2.5 million dollars over five years would be funnelled into projects that “break the intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and building healthy relationships.”
$1.4 million over five years to “share information and resources with communities and organizations, and report regularly on progress made and results achieved under the Action Plan.”
Another $7.5 million over five years from that fund would go towards helping the victims of violence.
What money remained would go towards raising awareness to, “to engage men and boys and empower women and girls,” at the sum of $5 million over five years.
The Harper government also pointed out that it has been assisting Indigenous communities through investments, “including ongoing funding for shelters on reserve, violence prevention and deterrence activities, and the creation of a DNA Missing Persons Index.”
I will note here that $25 million dollars is not much spread over five years, with the lion’s share of the money going to a policing agency.
The government report — released on behalf of the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Justice, Public Safety, and Canadian Heritage — goes on to acknowledge that, “Indigenous women were five times more likely to be murdered or go missing despite making up a tiny fraction of the general population.”
Titled: Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes Against Aboriginal Women and Girls, the action plan addresses:
— Preventing Violence by supporting community level solutions.
— Supporting Aboriginal Victims with appropriate services.
— Protecting Aboriginal Women and Girls by investing in shelters and continuing to improve Canada’s law enforcement and justice systems.
Although the government of Canada has so far rejected the call from grassroots Indigenous groups to Canada’s premiers, for a comprehensive national inquiry, our Prime Minister still wants to show Canada that the government cares.
“The Government of Canada is deeply concerned about the high incidence of family violence and violent crime against Aboriginal women, and the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. Far too many families have been affected by violent crime and its aftermath.”
“I have met personally with many affected families and communities, listened to their stories, and witnessed their pain. Violent crime committed against Aboriginal women and girls must be strongly denounced — by the communities in which it occurs, and by all Canadians. We must prevent such violence, and ensure a strong law enforcement and justice system is in place to support victims and bring those who commit these acts to justice,” he said.
While it is an important step that the government acknowledges the existence of intergenerational trauma, the report is careful not lay culpability on the residential school system or colonialism as major causes of said intergenerational trauma. Instead, the report simply notes that the government — through Justice Canada — will help “Aboriginal communities to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and creating tools, activities and resources to build healthy relationships. These projects will be based on Indigenous knowledge and culture and put an emphasis on including youth as partners.”
Exactly how, is the Justice Department’s five-million-dollar question.
Nor does the report touch upon the underlying causes of violence, which are multifaceted and cannot be solved simply by throwing money at the problem. While the report does mention funds dedicated to, “enhancing skills and job opportunities,” this is in isolation against other social factors does not address the underlying problems of the Canadian colonial system.
Yes, the government is correct that now is not the time for another report, but for action! And Harper’s government has informed Indigenous communities of the need for action — something, trust me, they already know — by releasing another report.
A report which promises to release a lot of potential money, though spread over five years, under the distribution of government agencies and law enforcement, all while trying to acknowledge that the solution to said violence against Indigenous women and girls lies in the hands of Indigenous communities themselves.
This when a 2005 report on this issue was released with the explicit title, “Researched to Death.”
It seems the Harper government is trying to have it both ways, by looking financially that it is tackling the problem and being at arm’s reach when it comes to accountability.
It’s not like the government of Canada doesn’t know about the effects of colonization, as even the Minister of the Status of Women, Roma Ambrose, told a parliamentary hearing in 2011, “There are root causes of violence in the Aboriginal communities that include things like poverty and racism and this is why it’s incredibly important for us to work with organizations, aboriginal organizations, across the country…”
Harper’s government speaks of the need to “denounce” violent crime against Aboriginal women and girls, but does so by creating an expensive paper tiger that roars at the injustice while pawing at the problem like a kitten.