Government report on Missing and Murdered women and girls avoids taking meaningful action


Parliamentary committee's report on violence against Indigenous women ‘sanitized'


OTTAWA-The Conservative MPs on the House of Commons special committee on violence against Indigenous women refused to add calls for a public inquiry as part of the main recommendations in the committee's report tabled Friday in Parliament.

The committee's main recommendations, which were essentially those of Conservative MPs on the committee, generally reflected the Harper government's current policy on the issue.

There are an estimated 800 murdered and missing Indigenous women across the country.

The report included the dissenting opinions of the NDP and Liberals MPs on the committee who both recommended the government to call a public inquiry and issued a separate set of recommendations. The NDP and Liberals also recommended the government develop a national action plan to combat violence against Indigenous women.

"It is appalling that after hearing witness after witness testify that much more needs to be done on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the Conservatives could produce a sanitized report saying that everything is fine," said NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder.

"That this report only contains recommendations approved by the government, and does not reflect the testimony of witnesses, is in flagrant disregard of Parliamentary principles," said Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett.

Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) president Michelle Audette said the report marked a "sad day for the families."

Audette said Indigenous women needed concrete action from Ottawa.

"Look how much they spend for nothing when we are dying on the streets," said Audette.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said he would be meeting with NWAC, the Metis National Council and the inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to discuss what to do to up pressure on the issue.

"This report is disappointing to Indigenous women and girls and all Canadians who stand with us," said Atleo.

According to the evidence heard by the committee, 70 per cent of disappearances and 60 per cent of murders of Indigenous women happen in urban centres. The committee heard that over 87 per cent of these women were mothers of at least one child, according to data provided by NWAC.

NWAC also told the committee that of the over 582 cases they've tallied, 39 per cent occurred after 2000 and 17 per cent in the 1990s. NWAC also found that half of the cases remain unsolved. The Canadian average for homicide investigation is a 75 per cent solve rate.

Indigenous women are also far more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women. Between 2004 and 2011, Indigenous women accounted for 8 per cent of murders while being only 4 per cent of the total population of women.

Indigenous women are also more likely to be attacked by a stranger than non-Indigenous women, the committee heard.

Indigenous women are also more likely to face violence in domestic situations. According to the 2009 General Social Survey, indigenous women face twice the rate of domestic violence than the general population.

While the Conservative MP's recommendations in the report called on Ottawa to work with provinces, territories and municipalities to create "public awareness and prevention" campaigns in its first recommendation, the four that followed simply mirrored already announced initiatives by the federal government.

The committee called on the government to "strengthen the criminal justice system" so "violent and repeat offenders serve appropriate sentences." It recommended the Harper government "maintain its commitment to develop the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights" and implement a national DNA missing persons index, which was announced in the most recent budget.

The committee also recommended Ottawa support on-reserve K-12 education, which was recently the subject of joint federal government-Assembly of First Nations announcement.

The committee stopped short of calling for funding for women's shelters and front-line services on reserve, but instead called on Ottawa to "engage First nation communities to examine how to improve" them.

APTN National News reported Thursday that an Iqaluit woman was murdered by her partner shortly before she was turned away by a shelter because it had no more room.

The committee recommended Ottawa address poverty as a root cause of violence against Indigenous women by providing economic development and job skills training. It also called on the federal government to ensure territorial and First Nation childcare agencies have "effective and accountable service delivery."

Ottawa is currently facing a human rights complaint alleging it underfunds on reserve child and family services compared to the provinces.

The committee recommended the federal government work with municipal, provincial and territorial governments to collect police data on violence against Indigenous women that "includes an ethnicity variable."

The RCMP is already collective missing and murdered case data from police forces across the country but it is not specific to First Nations, Metis and Inuit women.

The Native Women's Association of Canada has already dismissed the work of the committee.

Amnesty International said in a statement that the report failed Indigenous women.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is personally against calling an inquiry and has relayed his views to AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.



AFN press release

Assembly of First Nations Says Special Committee Report Disappoints Victims and Families of Missing and Murdered Women and Girls and Calls on Government to Take Real Action: National Indigenous Leaders to Meet Monday to Plan Action

March 7, 2014

(Ottawa, ON) - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated today that the report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women disappoints victims and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and does not go far enough to address the issue, adding that the leaders of national Indigenous organizations will be meeting to discuss immediate action to address this issue. 

"The Special Committee on Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women heard emotional, powerful and constructive testimony and yet it's clear those voices were not heard," said National Chief Atleo.  "We know we cannot achieve the change we need without a clear, unequivocal commitment and systemic change to ending violence and taking all the necessary steps to ensure Indigenous women and girls are safe. This report is disappointing to Indigenous women and girls and all Canadians who stand with us.  I have spoken to the leadership of the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Metis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and we will be meeting Monday to discuss next steps and set out a plan to get action on this critical matter."

On December 5, 2013, AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo appeared before the Special Committee on Violence against Indigenous Women and identified four areas for action.  The National Chief called for immediate actions to create change, the launch for a National Public Commission of Inquiry, the creation of a national action plan with clear goals, and an immediate increase in investments to front-line services such as shelters in urban and remote communities.  Today's report comes only two days after a memorial on Parliament Hill to commemorate the life of Loretta Saunders, a young Inuk woman who was dedicating her time and energy to researching violence against Indigenous women.

AFN Women's Council Chair Therese Villeneuve stated: "The AFN National Women's Council will continue to support the call for a National Public Commission of Inquiry.  Tomorrow is International Women's Day, a time to ask why Indigenous women are vastly, tragically over-represented in the cases of missing and murdered women.  It is clear that we need to look at the specific root causes and set out distinct recommendations to address this situation.  The Government of Canada must pull itself out of denial of this problem and move to acceptance and action now.  We support the call for immediate action and a national inquiry as essential to protecting and respecting Indigenous women and girls."

AFN Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who holds the AFN portfolio for community safety and policing, said: "We are not pleased with a watered down procedural exercise with no commitment to act.  We call on the Government of Canada to work together with First Nations organizations and citizens to develop and implement a National Action Plan to end violence.  There is growing awareness of this tragedy and the public is standing with us.  We acknowledge the dissenting reports put forward today by the NDP and Liberal Party that support the call for a national inquiry and immediate action.  It's time to take this responsibility very seriously and this includes the federal government committing to action now and valuing the lives of Indigenous women and girls."  

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo will be meeting with other leaders from National Aboriginal Organizations on Monday March 10, 2014 to discuss next steps on this issue.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.