The federal government is promising increased funding for community organizations that support vulnerable populations as part of its formal response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Globe and Mail obtained a copy of the federal response, which will be made public on Thursday, the second anniversary of the inquiry’s release of its 231 calls to justice. Those recommendations include a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse persons.
The Liberal government, which established the national inquiry in 2016 to examine why this group is disproportionately affected by violence, initially said it would respond with an action plan within a year. It said last year the timeline would be delayed because of the pandemic.
The federal response largely contains pledges to work with Indigenous organizations in a wide range of areas, but gives few details on what exactly Ottawa proposes or who would receive funding.
Ottawa’s contribution is intended to be one part of the national action plan. The response document says high rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ [two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and/or asexual] people underscore the pressing need to ensure their safety and security.
“The government of Canada recognizes that threats to wellness and personal safety are not just physical threats such as violence but also include poverty, lack of access to affordable, adequate and safe housing, environmental threats, political repression, social unrest, denial of cultural practices, disease, food insecurity, and human rights abuses,” the document states.
The response pledges to boost funding to Indigenous organizations and communities to help prevent human trafficking and enhance victim services.
One section also promises to co-develop legislation that will ensure First Nations police forces are well-funded. Ottawa previously has promised to co-develop a legislative framework that recognizes First Nations policing as an essential service.
The response also says the RCMP will reform its recruitment practices, collect and report race-based data, and establish an RCMP-Indigenous collaboration, co-development and accountability office “to improve community engagement” and support the “delivery of appropriate education and training using an Indigenous lens.”
On health care, the government says it will co-develop “distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation” that will provide Indigenous peoples with increased control over the design and delivery of federally funded health services. “Distinctions-based” means specifically tailored to Inuit, Métis and First Nations. The government has previously pledged to co-develop Indigenous health legislation.
The document also said Canada must work toward ensuring Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people are “empowered, respected and their human security is safeguarded through the removal of socio-economic threats to wellness and personal safety.”
On Wednesday, the National Family and Survivors Circle (NFSC), which includes Indigenous family members and survivors from diverse backgrounds, presented Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett with a 50-page document that includes calls for justice in areas of culture, health, wellness, human security and the legal system. The NFSC has worked with Ms. Bennett’s department and Northern Affairs Canada as part of the government’s response to the inquiry.
NFSC co-chair Hilda Anderson-Pyrz told The Globe and Mail it is really important for the federal government to demonstrate action, adding that accountability mechanisms are also needed.
“Immediate action is needed and any delay in action is too long,” she said.
Governments can “no longer work in silos” to address a genocide, she said, adding that all levels must act.
On Tuesday, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) said it believed the federal government’s response to the inquiry is “fundamentally flawed,” and released its own plan. The organization said it includes 65 actions it will take.
The measures are budgeted at $30-million annually, which the group wants to raise from governments and other donors. They include what the NWAC called “resiliency lodges” to provide health, wellness, language and cultural programs for Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. The plan also includes justice initiatives, such as developing training for police focusing specifically on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and gender-based violence against Indigenous women.
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