We can’t wait another decade to end violence against native women

By Beverly Jacobs and Alex Neve, The Globe & Mail, 30 September 2014

When Amnesty International released the Stolen Sisters report in October, 2004, the Native Women’s Association of Canada had already been campaigning to focus attention on the uncounted hundreds of indigenous women and girls who had been murdered or gone missing in Canada.

We now know, from recently released RCMP statistics, that in the decade that followed the release of the Stolen Sisters report, dozens more indigenous women and girls were murdered every year, with more than 105 remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for undetermined reasons. Due to significant gaps in police reporting, it’s also clear that many more deaths and disappearances are likely absent from RCMP figures.

Such widespread and pervasive violence demands a comprehensive national response, aimed not just at bringing the perpetrators to justice, but also at preventing this violence in the first place. This has not happened. In mid-September, the federal government announced what it claimed was an “action plan” to address violence against Indigenous women. It was really only a re-announcement of existing programs and initiatives best described as piecemeal and inadequate. (...)

International human rights standards require governments to take every reasonable effort to prevent violence against women. Governments that fail to do so bear responsibility for some of the suffering and loss that they could have prevented.

In our view, two broad measures are needed to fulfil this responsibility: a truly comprehensive and co-ordinated national action plan and an independent public inquiry to ensure that government responses are based on indigenous women’s real needs. (...)

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Photo: Lyle Stafford / The Globe and Mail