NAFC – MMIWG Inquiry: Summary of Findings for Urban Indigenous Peoples
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Canada has a well-documented epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls. In 2013, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People observed that Canada has an “epidemic” of murdered and missing Indigenous women. As later noted by the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,
“Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada, and 16 times more likely than Caucasian women… Other than murder, statistics also reveal how Indigenous women consistently experience higher rates and more severe forms of physical assault and robbery than other groups of women… [and] in some communities, sexually exploited Indigenous children and youth make up more than 90% of the visible sex trade.” 1
Horrific violence has repeatedly captured the nation’s attention. From the Pickton murders, claiming the lives of dozens of Indigenous women from Vancouver’s downtown east side, to murder of Tina Fontaine and uninvestigated deaths in Thunder Bay, Canada has been shaken to its core by senseless deaths of Indigenous women – many of which have gone missing from or have died in cities. Many of these deaths have resulted in no investigation or conviction, challenging Canada’s fundamental values of justice.
After years of steadily increasing pressure, the Government of Canada launched a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in August, 2016 with a mandate to investigate the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls. The inquiry’s scope expanded to include two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and non-binary people (2SLGBTQQIA). Over 3 years, the Inquiry engaged with over 2,300 participants in 15 community hearings across Canada before releasing its findings.
The final report stated that the national tragedy of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls amounts to a genocide, sparking significant domestic and international attention and equally significant debate. The 231 Calls to Justice (CTJ) – a name chosen by the commissioners to signal the non-discretionary and legally binding nature of their recommendations – have received less airtime. Nonetheless, the CTJ’s lay out an approach on what governments must do so that Canada can move forward to address systemic violence. The CTJs are the bulk of the ideas with which Indigenous groups and service providers, governments, and others must engage.
The CTJs, in the view of the commissioners, build a foundation to allow Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA to “reclaim power and place,” a concept that speaks to the role and responsibilities that women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people play in “fulfilling their own People or Nation’s understandings of their rights” and to reversing the narrative from victimhood to one of human rights. In order to reclaim power and place, the commissioners identified four pathways requiring address:
- historical, multigenerational, and intergenerational trauma;
- social and economic marginalization;
- maintaining the status quo and institutional lack of will;
- ignoring the agency and expertise of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the CTJs as they apply to the work of the Friendship Centre movement. In doing so, we take two analytical approaches which provide two different insights: the first is a narrow read of the CTJs that speak to program, service and other needs that exist in urban contexts; the second is a broad read where we apply the underlying logic to the CTJs to understand their spirit and intent and then apply them to urban issues in ways that might not be apparent at first glance. In the first approach, we take CTJs at face value; through the second, we ask “how” certain CTJs could be achieved and what the role of an urban service provider would be to enable such an outcome. Our analytical approach rests on the basis that the CTJs are meant to be understood as promoting, enabling and supporting self-determination and, as a result, can be broadly read and interpreted by Indigenous groups seeking to take steps to address systemic violence and its root causes.
Our analysis takes into consideration that the CTJs are presented a matter of rights – which is a position of strength based on the foundation of law, but one that resides in the domain of those who represent the bearers of rights. Friendship Centres neither assert nor proport to represent rights. We recognize that service providers may give expression to Indigenous rights and their approaches may be founded on the basis of self-determination, but their fundamental orientation is towards day-to-day client needs. We in no question the nature or composition of rights, or the findings that the commissioners reached respecting those rights, nor do we consider rights in an urban context. We approach the questions from a position of the interests of service providers in addressing the four pathways rather than from the position of the rights themselves.
Read More: https://www.nafc.ca/downloads/mmiwg_finalreport-sept2020.pdf