Two years after the publication of its landmark report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), the federal government released its response today – a 30-page report that promises a series of “transformative changes” to address persistent inequalities Fight tribal peoples face when dealing with the judiciary.
The Federal Pathway report called for a holistic approach, jointly developed with the indigenous people, Métis and Inuit, to end the scourge of violence that is disproportionately directed against indigenous women and gender-specific people.
The plan includes the government’s promise to spend more on indigenous language, culture, infrastructure, health and policing. Ottawa will give communities more control over social services to ensure a culturally relevant approach to governance.
“In order to end violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA + people, significant and transformative change through all government orders is imperative,” said Carolyn Bennett, Minister for Relations between the Crown and Indigenous, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people.
“As governments and Canadians, we must do more and pledge to better end this national tragedy,” she said, citing statistics showing indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than other women in Canada.
Despite making up only four percent of Canada’s population, indigenous women were the victims of 28 percent of all murders of women in 2019, according to Statistics Canada – something that Bennett says is fueled by systemic discrimination and the country’s history of colonialism.
At a release ceremony for the report, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $ 2.2 billion in new spending over five years to implement the ambitious new program.
“To the survivors and families, elders, representatives and commissioners, and to everyone involved in this work – your voices have been heard,” said Trudeau, adding that he accepted the results of the investigation that the ongoing violence against indigenous women equates to genocide.
“To truly heal these wounds, we must first acknowledge the truth. Not just about boarding schools, but about so many injustices, both past and present, that indigenous peoples face, ”he said.
WATCH: Trudeau publishes national action plan on MMIWG report
The families of missing and murdered Indigenous women have long claimed that the country’s judicial system is riddled with racism, which often results in inadequate police responses to violent crimes in indigenous communities and fewer cases solved.
The government said it would enact new laws to recognize First Nations-led police force as an “essential service” and to put more money in reserve for these crime-fighting efforts.
Ottawa also pledges to expand the First Nations police program to new communities and to fund the repair, renovation and replacement of existing police facilities in First Nations and Inuit communities.
In addition to providing communities with more resources for better policing, the federal government is also promising new investments in the RCMP, which is often responsible for policing in rural, northern, and remote communities.
Ottawa says it will instruct the RCMP to “reform systemic racism within its ranks through” recruiting and training processes, gather more racial data to better track crime statistics, and establish the RCMP-Indigenous Collaboration, Co-Development and Accountability Office – a new directorate aimed at improving relations between the police and the indigenous peoples they serve. The government says it wants RCMP officials to look at their actions through an “indigenous lens” in order to avoid stigmatizing crime victims.
Discrimination in healthcare needs to be addressed
To help women fleeing domestic violence, the federal government promises to spend more on transitional housing, increase the number of emergency shelters for indigenous women and children in the north and urban areas, and “expand community reintegration support” for indigenous women who are criminal perpetrators.
In last fall’s economic statement, Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland committed $ 724 million over five years to these initiatives.
In addition to strengthening police resources, the government wants to combat discrimination in health care to achieve better results.
The harassment of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who was dying in hospital, subjected to racial assault by health workers in Quebec, has inspired Ottawa to work with provincial, territorial and indigenous partners to resolve bigotry and “extreme health To combat inequalities and social inequalities ”. Said the report.
The federal government says it will shortly present a new health law aimed at eradicating anti-indigenous racism in care.
The government says it wants more “health system navigators” and patient advocates to help indigenous peoples interact with doctors and nurses, and expand the use of First Nations and Inuit midwives and doulas to assist pregnant women during pregnancy support at work.
Like the new training it will now require for the RCMP, Ottawa wants “cultural safety training” for healthcare professionals to avoid repeating what happened to Echaquan.
The government says it is determined to increase indigenous control and responsibility over the “design, provision and management of government-funded health services”. More money will also be spent improving sexual and reproductive health care for Indigenous women inside and outside the reserve and strengthening the mental health services available to them.
As the opioid epidemic continues to kill hundreds of Canadians each year, the federal government is promising new funding for community-based drug treatment and prevention programs to help indigenous people struggling with addiction.
Ottawa today committed to recruiting more nurses and other health care professionals for remote and isolated First Nations communities.
The federal government also says it will also establish a new National Institute for Women’s Health Research to explore ways to improve health care for women from marginalized communities.
To promote general health and well-being, communities should be supported in revitalizing indigenous language and culture.
Ottawa pledged to strengthen opportunities for indigenous “cultural expression, participation, promotion and representation in the arts, cultural industries and media” and said it would continue to protect indigenous languages in Canada – many of which are endangered after centuries of colonialism.
The federal government said it would support initiatives like language and culture camps by building on the 2019 laws that created the Indigenous Languages Act.
“Government policies and laws that have hindered the ability to exercise and pass on cultural knowledge and languages have created conditions in which the significant role and identity of indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA + people is less valued,” the federal document says.
First Nations Assembly National Leader (AFN) Perry Bellegarde welcomed the government’s response and the promise of $ 2.2 billion in new spending to curb violence.
Bellegarde said the police and justice and health systems “must all be accountable to the indigenous people they serve and pledge to implement demands for justice,” he said.
“It will take years to uncover decades of colonial policy and the genocide campaign against our people, but we are here today to commit to this work.
“Our people have suffered enough. We need action, we have to implement all of these recommendations.”