OTTAWA – Lorraine Whitman, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), wrote today to members of the Liberal cabinet to urge them to make the safety and economic security of Indigenous women a priority as they set a new legislative agenda for the coming session of Parliament.
The letter to Ministers, which was sent two weeks before the scheduled reading of a Throne Speech, says Indigenous women have lost some of the optimism they felt when the Liberal government was first elected in 2015.
Primarily, wrote Ms. Whitman, they are disappointed that the government has been slow to act in addressing the calls for Justice of the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered indigenous Women and tabling a National Action Plan to end the violence.
The killing did not end when the national Inquiry was called. Every week, new names are being added to that horrific list of Indigenous women and girls who vanish or are found dead at the hands of a killer.
“When the Throne Speech is read, NWAC will be listening for indications that you appreciate the magnitude of the economic and security problems faced by First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls, and that you understand the urgent need to tackle them,” Ms. Whitman wrote in her letter to Ministers.
Ms. Whitman detailed a series of urgent initiatives that could be quickly implemented by the government to address the safety and economic needs of Indigenous women. They include:
- Creating a national task force to re-examine and, in cases where it is warranted, reinvestigate unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women;
- Creating a national database of the missing and murdered;
- Expanding a culturally appropriate healing program created by NWAC across the country;
- Establishing a national network to advertise and sell the goods and services of Indigenous women entrepreneurs;
- Establishing a database of Indigenous women entrepreneurs;
- Creating a liaison position to inform Indigenous women of procurement opportunities;
- Establishing a seed money fund for Indigenous women entrepreneurs;
- Providing more training and certification opportunities for Indigenous women;
- Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Women; and
- Providing more assistance to help Indigenous communities cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Indigenous women of Canada are looking for a sign that their well-being matters and that safety and economic concerns remain a top priority for this government, wrote Ms. Whitman. “I don’t need to tell you that Indigenous people, in general, and Indigenous women, in particular, are among the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, and that they endure living conditions which fall far below those enjoyed by most other Canadians,” she wrote to the Ministers. “We are eager to work with you in the days and months ahead as partners in this vital cause.”