Are governments keeping their promises to end violence against Indigenous women and girls? | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Are governments keeping their promises to end violence against Indigenous women and girls?

For many generations Indigenous women and two-spirited people have been the victims of violence in disproportionate numbers across Canada. This fact prompted the federal government to launch a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in December 2018.

The inquiry panel traveled the country taking statements from more than 2,000 people. But their mandate covered more than missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, expanding to encompass sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, bullying and harassment, suicide, and self-harm.  

“This violence is interconnected, and can have equally devastating effects,” states the MMIWG website.

The final report, issued in 2019, reveals that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

The report contained 231 recommendations, calling for transformative legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that has devastated Indigenous communities across the country. In the four years since, Canada has completed two of the 231 calls to action and less than half have been started, according to a CBC report card on MMIWG Inquiry’s calls for justice.

On June 9, 2023, the Government of Canada announced that funding to the tune of $2.6 million will be allocated to 10 Indigenous women's organizations and 2SLGBTQI+ groups that are working to end the national crisis.  

The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations, announced that the ten selected Indigenous women's organizations have a unique knowledge and expertise on how to best protect and empower Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people.

Marc Miller, minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations, stated that this funding is part of the $36.3 million over five years provided in Budget 2021 to a program supporting attention to the national issue, which includes $8.6 million ongoing to ensure that Indigenous women's and 2SLGBTQI+ organizations can rely on funding to continue their critical work.

But the NDP Critic for Women and Gender Equality Leah Gazan says the Liberal government is failing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people with their lack of progress on the Calls for Justice. 

“It’s completely unacceptable that four years after the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, this Liberal government has only completed two of the 231 Calls for Justice, and more than half haven’t even been started,” she stated. “Families and survivors cannot wait any longer for action to end the violence. While this government fails to act, Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people continue to go missing or be murdered.” 
One of the Calls for Justice that the federal government has accomplished is the recommendation that "all governments create specific and long-term funding” to support initiatives to end the violence.

Part of this is the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, which was launched in June 2021.

“The Government of Canada has come together to create a plan for departments to support systemic change to address the crisis,” stated the federal government when the pathway was launched.  

The federal government says it has invested over $2.2 billion in Budget 2021, with more contributions in 2022 and 2023. In addition, the Canada states it has invested in more housing, shelters and transportation to ensure immediate safety of those needing to escape violence.

Meanwhile, the Province of British Columbia has committed more than $10.8 million to support Indigenous organizations through the development of A Path Forward Community Fund. Created in 2021, the fund helps to end violence and support Indigenous-led community dialogue sessions to inform this work.

On June 3, it was announced that $5.5 million would be allocated to the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres as part of this fund.  

“Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people experience violence at a much higher rate than other populations,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Understanding and breaking down the underlying and systemic causes of violence is key to our government’s work toward lasting reconciliation and advancing gender equality, and this funding will serve to further that work.”

As executive director of the Port Alberni Friendship Center, Cyndi Stevens, will welcome the new funding, when it comes.

“The allocation to the National Office is still in progress to be allocated to the provinces,” she noted. “We will likely know more in the fall how individual allocations to each Friendship Center will roll out, I expect.”

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