Nov. 9, 2020 OTTAWA – Canadian politicians have the power to begin righting the human-rights wrongs inflicted upon Indigenous women, and now is the time for action, Lorraine Whitman, the President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has told a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial human-rights Ministers.
“Even if you cannot wipe out the evil that lies in the hearts of racists, you have the power to end the systemic discrimination that perpetuates injustice,” Ms. Whitman said Monday at the online meeting called to discuss racism and the effects of COVID-19 on Indigenous people. “Canadians take for granted many of the human rights that still elude Indigenous women.”
Indigenous women are being coerced into forced sterilization, she said. They are overrepresented in Canadian prisons, they live in substandard housing, they are economically marginalized, and they regularly experience abusive and racist treatment in healthcare.
“In practice, this means Indigenous people have significantly worse health outcomes than non-Indigenous people,” Ms. Whitman told the Ministers. “That is just plain wrong in a wealthy and progressive country like Canada.”
On COVID-19, she said, a survey of Indigenous women conducted by NWAC shows that the isolation caused by the pandemic has increased their fears of violence – a situation Ms. Whitman said is another human-rights violation.
NWAC appreciates being included in any discussion about the human rights of Indigenous women, said Ms. Whitman. The organization has been advocating for those rights for nearly five decades. But, a year-and-a-half after a National Inquiry determined the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people to be a genocide, the time for discussion is over, she said.
“Many of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, speak directly to the issues that are before this gathering today. Read them. Reflect upon them. Act upon them,” Ms. Whitman told the Ministers. “You have the power to right these wrongs. You have the power to create a level playing field for the Indigenous women of Canada.”
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