FSIN says national MMIWG action plan a long time coming, but more work to be done

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said the federal plan to improve Indigenous living conditions and address the disproportionate deaths of Indigenous women and girls in Canada has been a long time coming - but there is a lot of work ahead.

“Something of such a huge undertaking, it does take time. But, I know there’s families that have been waiting, and you know, they need action and they needed action a long time go, even before this inquiry,” Vice-Chief Heather Bear said.

It’s been two years since the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) issued 213 calls for justice. On Thursday, the national action plan to address those calls was released, outlining both short-term priorities and years-long commitments for change.

Some of the short-term priorities include the establishment of oversight bodies to represent families and survivors’ complaints, a national task force to re-investigate unresolved files and a justice-reform committee to review existing legislation.

Bear said when it comes to re-investigating unresolved cases, she has questions about who will be doing the work and whether there will be trust in the process.

She said there should be a dedicated First Nations unit assigned to that.

“Unless those resources and those efforts are fully put to force, this has got to mean something. I mean every day a family member, every day that goes by, you know, a member is not found or someone is found and it’s a hard day, it’s a hard life,” Bear said, adding that justice is healing for Indigenous people.

Bear said the FSIN is hoping to take a lead with the calls to justice laid out in the report, adding that some have already been done in Saskatchewan.

“We have a lot of work to do in terms of some of the injustices that are happening each and every day within our region and that's going to take a lot of effort, not only by our people but by non-First Nations people. You know, we need to all buy in here for a better day tomorrow,” she said.

Other short-term priorities outlined in the report include:

  • public education campaigns on the issues Indigenous people experience and initiating Indigenous-led cultural initiatives
  • setting up trauma-informed training for those who work with Indigenous people
  • 24-hour mental health and addictions supports and victim services
  • creating shelters, sustainable housing, access to high-speed internet and a guaranteed liveable income

Priscilla Settee, an activist and Indigenous Studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan, echoed the need for immediate action.

“The proof is on the ground, quality of life on the ground. So, for example, we’ve seen nothing in terms of social housing policy, we’ve really seen nothing in terms of food sovereignty guarantees. These are issues that really attack or address or have an influence on our most vulnerable in our society,” she said.

“We need to act on behalf of the most vulnerable, we need to educate ourselves and we really need to hold government’s feet to the fire.”