OTTAWA, ON /CNW Telbec/ – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde, together with AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis and AFN Women’s Council Chair Therese Villeneuve, welcome the valuable and insightful report released this morning by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on their study of the high rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women in British Columbia and across Canada. The report comes as the AFN and other Indigenous peoples’ organizations and Indigenous women’s families are preparing for a National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women with the provinces and territorial leaders to be held in Ottawa February 27, 2015.
Representatives from the AFN Women’s Council and staff met with the IACHR Commissioners in Ottawa on August 6, 2013 and the National Chief provided a letter outlining needed actions and recommendations forward. This is available on the AFN website at www.afn.ca.
National Chief Perry Bellegarde made the following statement: “On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, I wish to thank the IACHR for its work and for so clearly identifying the critical failure of governments and policing across Canada to meet their obligations under international and regional human rights law to guarantee equality, by failing to exercise due diligence in preventing and responding to violence against Indigenous women and girls. The IACHR has concluded that the response of governments in Canada to date to this national crisis amounts to a violation of the right to life for Indigenous women and girls. We must act together to establish both a national inquiry to examine these critical human rights failings and move at the same time to put in place a national action plan informed by the guidance of the IACHR and other human rights bodies. I also wish to express our support and thanks to the AFN Women’s Council, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the many individual Indigenous activists and advocates, and most importantly, the families of victims who have been a voice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.”
The IACHR report entitled Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada supports what Indigenous peoples have been saying to federal and provincial/territorial governments for some time – that the vulnerability and victimization of Indigenous women is not only a criminal justice issue but represents a much larger problem of discrimination and continuing impacts of colonization. Appropriate responses therefore must respond to the contemporary reality of colonization and discrimination as experienced by Indigenous women and girls, their families and communities. This includes a national action plan that responds to the negative impacts of the Indian Act and other imposed federal legislation targeting First Nations peoples, explicit and systemic discrimination in many forms affecting indigenous women and girls, the aftermath of the Indian residential schools system and institutional and structural inequalities.
“Addressing violence and achieving safe and thriving communities is a key priority for First Nations across Canada,” said AFN Regional Chief Cameron Alexis who leads the work for the AFN national executive on addressing and ending violence against Indigenous women and girls. “First Nations will continue to do all we can to address and prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls, but we need direct response and action from all levels of government as well. The police have a major role to play and must be responsible and accountable but this is not just about policing, it must also be about prevention. This report underscores the need for a national inquiry that would examine root causes, identify and address these long-standing, systemic issues that make our people more vulnerable to violence.”
The 153 page report and its recommendations provide guidance in moving forward to establish a national inquiry to examine issues and collect the missing data and compile statistics on the scope of the problem and to establish, at the same time, a preliminary action plan to begin addressing the systemic discrimination that lies at the heart of this national tragedy. A comprehensive national action plan must be developed and implemented based on direction from First Nation communities and leaders and inclusive of the voices of the families of missing and murdered women and girls. The report notes that greater education and accountability are required for law enforcement, the justice system and social services.
“We are currently planning for a National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Women together with other Indigenous organizations and the provinces, territories and federal government that we expect to take place February 27, 2015 in Ottawa,” said AFN Women’s Council Co-Chair Therese Villeneuve. “We will continue our calls for a National Public Commission of Inquiry to address the root causes of violence and the vulnerabilities of Indigenous women and girls and the implementation of a national action plan to address and end violence against Indigenous women and girls. The Inquiry and Roundtable are not our only steps toward change, but they are significant and we expect results. Our objectives are clear – tangible outcomes, support and investments that will keep Indigenous women and girls safe and long-term strategies to prevent further violence.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is the principle organ of the Organization of American States charged with protecting and promoting human rights in the Americas, and has been monitoring the human rights situation in Canada though cases, precautionary measures and thematic and country based approaches.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action brought the issue of the high incidences of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in BC to the IACHR for examination in 2012. As a result, the IACHR held thematic hearings in March 2012 and 2013 and conducted an in-person visit to Canada between August 6 and August 9, 2013. The visit was led jointly by Commissioner Tracy Robinson, Vice President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, and Commissioner Dinah Shelton, Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
For more information on support for a National Public Commission of Inquiry, work toward an action plan to end violence and the upcoming National Roundtable on murdered and missing Indigenous women please visit: http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/policy-areas/i-pledge.-end-violence.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations