Indigenous people waiting for action on MMIWG as day marks their pain
In cities across Canada, people gathered to mark a day that honours the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are questioning the federal government’s commitment to helping them.
Monday marked the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people (MMIWG), with events in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Hamilton, to name a few. The day is meant to raise awareness for the hundreds of Indigenous women and girls who are gone from their communities and the cases that remain unsolved.
While the numbers of MMIWG cases vary, a 2014 report from the RCMP found there were 1,017 homicides of Indigenous women between 1980 and 2012, a rate of about 2.6 deaths per month. Statistics Canada has found that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than other Canadian women.
According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, only about 53 per cent of the 582 murder cases in the organization’s “Sisters In Spirit” database have been solved.
In 2019, a national MMIWG inquiry found that Canada’s “assimilationist and genocidal government laws” against Indigenous people lead to high rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S+ people. The report also included 231 calls to action, but the response has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While our people are out here suffering with mental health, addictions, being further exploited, being further harmed, we need preventative measures put in place right now,” Rachel Willan, a survivor of violence, told CTV News at the Winnipeg gathering.
Two years later, Indigenous people on the ground are still waiting for tangible changes.
“Enough talk. Let’s do it. Let's put it into action,” said Bernice Catcheway, whose daughter Jennifer has been missing for 13 years. “Put those words into action.”
In June, the federal government released its 2021 National Action Plan that contained a plan for how to address the violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people.
Still, Indigenous people have reason to be skeptical of government promises.
Just last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was seen on a beach in Tofino, B.C., during the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“It's an insult to injury, especially not only for my family, but my friends’ family and hundreds and thousands of families across this country,” said Alaya McIvor, a survivor of violence.
Trudeau has privately apologized to the chief of Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Nation for passing up on visiting the First Nation last week and instead vacationing in Tofino.
In a statement, Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations, offered her support to the “families and communities who bear the grief of their loss and to the survivors whose lives have been forever changed.”
“Ending this violence is a shared responsibility of all levels of government, as well as of law enforcement agencies, the justice system and civil society,” she said in the statement.
“We will continue working together with families and Survivors, as well as with Indigenous and federal, provincial and territorial governments to protect the rights, freedoms and safety of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.”
With files from CTVNews.ca Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello