Long-awaited national action plan on MMIWG falls short, critics say

After two years of waiting, the federal government is finally providing a path forward to address the violence, racism and disproportionate deaths of Indigenous women and girls — but critics say it’s a roadmap filled with holes.

The government’s action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report is expected to be released Thursday.

A copy of the document obtained by CTV News is more than 100 pages long, but outlines a list of short-term priorities across four short pages.

A list of the short-term priorities include: a guaranteed annual livable income and stable and sustainable housing, creating a deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections, and a national task force to review and reinvestigate unsolved files, something that was announced before.

The MMIWG national inquiry released 231 calls for justice in its final report two years ago.

It was the government’s job to act on it. But this plan, some say, lacks that action.

It’s too broad, with no dollars attached and no clear timelines — disappointing for those who waited two years for a response.

“There is no more excuses,” said Lynne Groulx, chief executive officer of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), told CTV News.

“How could the government mobilize the kinds of resources they mobilized during the COVID pandemic, but they couldn’t do that for Indigenous people when it was time to do it? I think they are out of time.”

The federal government has cited COVID-19 as a major reason behind the delay in a national action plan to address the MMIWG report.

But many feel the delay is unjustified, causing NWAC to walk away from what they called a “fundamentally flawed” process earlier this week.

Families who testified, who told of their loss, are still waiting for answers.

“We need help,” Wilfred Catcheway told CTV News.

A task force to reinvestigate unsolved murders was discussed years ago. Yet, once again, the Catcheways are looking for their daughter Jennifer alone.

Jennifer disappeared on her 18th birthday, almost 13 years ago. Her family has been searching ever since, still holding out hope that a missing piece of information will surface, allowing them to find her.

The family has just returned from another search, to no avail.

“It’s always been talk, talk, talk, and campaigns, and 'we are going to do this’ and ‘we stand with you.’ Well, let’s see it,” Bernice Catcheway told CTV News. “Money talks.”

The tragedy was laid bare in the national inquiry: a genocide. And still lives are being lost.

Action is needed now, and advocates say oversight will be needed in the future.

“They’re not just saying that they’re doing things, it has to be measurable, with impacts that are felt on the ground,” Hilda Anderson-Pryz, manager of the MMIWG liaison unit with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, told CTV News.

One of the immediate next steps is to develop an implementation plan for national action, but the cost of this is not yet known. 

With files from CTVNews.ca's Alexandra Mae Jones