NWAC will work with the National Inquiry to ensure that all voices that need to be heard will be heard. — Dawn Lavell-Harvard, NWAC President
Ottawa (4 August 2016) — At a press conference held on August 3, 2016 the federal government announced the launch of the official inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The terms of reference and the names of the five commissioners who will lead the inquiry were released.
Minister for the status of women, Patty Hajdu stated, “We cannot move forward until we face and recognize and put a stop to this ongoing tragedy. Until that time, our entire country will live under its shadow and the consequences of our inaction.
The journey of the inquiry will be difficult and it will be painful. But it will also be the unflinching gaze needed to create a country where all girls and women are equally safe.”
NWAC’s eleven year campaign for a national inquiry
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has run an eleven year campaign for a national inquiry into the tragic number of Indigenous women and girls that have been murdered or gone missing over the last several decades.
In a press release issued after the press conference, NWAC President Dawn Lavell-Harvard stated, “We welcome the leadership shown by the Federal government today. After 11 years of NWAC listening to the families of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, we are pleased that we now have a government who is prepared to listen and act.
We want to acknowledge the great responsibility that the Commissioners have undertaken and commit to support them as they start this work. We recognize that five people cannot represent the diversity of our country and NWAC will work with the National Inquiry to ensure that all voices that need to be heard will be heard.”
NWAC has four areas of concern regarding the Terms of Reference for the inquiry which include:
- Trauma informed and culturally based counseling for families and survivors are limited to their appearance before the Commission.
- There is no opportunity for families to pursue or re-open cases through the justice system.
- There is no mention of the role of the provinces and territories in particular in the areas of police services and the child welfare system.
- There is no mention of the need to work with the justice system to ensure that there are changes to the system.
A long and tragic history
In 2004 Amnesty International released a report entitled Stolen Sister which contained nine case studies of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in three western provinces over a period of three decades. The report made six recommendations to all levels of Canadian governments which included acknowledging the seriousness of the problem, supporting research into the extent and causes of violence against Indigenous women and taking immediate action to protect women at greatest risk.
In 2010 NWAC estimated there were 582 missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada.
In 2014, the RCMP created a database of murdered and missing Indigenous women which contained the cases of over a thousand Indigenous women who had been murdered from 1980 to 2012 and 169 missing Indigenous women dating back to 1952.
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