National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls : one year later
QUEBEC, June 3, 2020 – One year has gone by since the tabling of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ (NIMMIWG) report, Reclaiming Power and Place. The report identified many gaps when it comes to ensuring safety and freedom from violence for Indigenous women and included 21 calls to justice formulated specifically for Quebec. In September 2019, the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress (Viens Commission) also tabled a report, which included calls to action in many ways related to those of the National Inquiry.
The Quebec government has expressed its commitment to implementing these calls to justice and calls to action together with Indigenous organizations and their representatives. Initial meetings have already made it possible for several major issues, such as housing, the safety of Indigenous women and their children, and public security, to be prioritized. A joint structure for the collaborative implementation of these calls to action was also developed.
Aware of the important task ahead, in its 2020-2021 budget, the Government included $200 million over five years in order to :
- Foster the educational successes of Indigenous youth;
- Raise awareness in the public service sector of issues Indigenous communities face;
- Support the well-being of Indigenous women and girls;
- Improve access to culturally appropriate services that meet the needs expressed by First Nations and Inuit.
NIMMIWG findings have led to great mobilization within the government, who has worked actively to implement various calls for justice. Significant efforts are underway to develop training for government employees in order to combat stereotypes, and work to establish a culturally safe environment within Quebec’s public services. The Government of Quebec has also made significant efforts under tripartite agreements to ensure the sustainability of Indigenous police services. Significant work is also being carried out to identify a way to enable government authorities to provide Indigenous families with the information they have relating to children who went missing following an admission to a hospital, or any other health centre in Quebec.
In addition to these steps, the Government of Quebec is deploying measures set out in its Action Plan for the Social and Cultural Development of the First Nations and Inuit, as recommended in the NIMMIWG’s calls to justice. Among the many interventions proposed in the Action Plan, more than 26 measures can particularly benefit Indigenous women and girls, particularly including addressing issues of family violence, sexual violence, and sexual and labour exploitation.
Situation of Indigenous Women
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has paid particular attention to Indigenous women’s realities. In order to respond promptly to the accrued needs of Indigenous women during the pandemic, the Secrétariat à la Condition féminine (SCF) and the Secrétariat des Affaires autochtones (SAA) is regularly holding information sharing meetings with various stakeholders, in partnership with Government departments and agencies concerned with the issues being raised. This has allowed for:
- The allocation of emergency funding to Indigenous women’s shelters located in urban areas and in communities with agreements, in order to improve the security of their facilities and to ensure the continuation of their activities (programs and services) in the context of increasing demand;
- The development of an emergency support fund, through the Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones to meet urgent COVID-19 related needs, and whose available funds are insufficient to cover the costs involved. This initiative made it possible to improve psychosocial and family support services by $200,000 from the SAA, and $200,000 from the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS).
“The National Inquiry has highlighted a situation that has been overlooked for far too long. It has produced a significant number of crucial calls for justice that have led to a continued mobilization of our efforts. We must keep working with Indigenous authorities to bring these calls to justice to life. Our Government would like to reiterate this commitment. As part of our work, we must continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of Indigenous women. This issue concerns us all. This work is of paramount importance and we will continue to do it together.”
Sylvie D’Amours, Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs
«Like my colleagues, I am very sensitive to realities of Indigenous women and girls who have experienced violence. Our support for them must manifest itself in our laws and institutions. This is why we will continue our discussions with the federal government and maintain good cooperation. We need to move things forward and provide Indigenous women and girls with a safe environment that promotes their well-being.”
Sonia LeBel, Minister of Justice
“More than $14 million will be invested by 2023 to combat violence against Indigenous women. Recent experience with COVID-19 has shown us that we must be vigilant and act quickly when certain problems appear or intensify. I am counting on the Indigenous women’s working committee to obtain a fair picture of the situation and to work together with the Government of Quebec in the most appropriate ways forward to meet women’s needs. We must remain attentive and proactive to ensure the safety and quality of life of Indigenous women.”
Isabelle Charest, Minister responsible for the Status of Women and Minister Responsible for Education
Important events following the tabling of the NIMMIWG report
- Premier’s apology to First Nations and Inuit in Quebec on behalf of the Quebec State at the National Assembly (October 2, 2019).
- Unanimous adoption by the National Assembly of a motion “aiming to recognize the principles and to undertake to negotiate the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (October 8, 2019).
- Following the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs’ initiative, first major meeting on the follow-up to the commissions with Indigenous Chiefs in Quebec and leaders from Indigenous organizations (Quebec, October 17, 2019).
- Following the initiative of Indigenous Chiefs and other organizations’ leaders, second major meeting on the follow-up to the commissions with the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs (Montreal, January 27, 2020).