OTTAWA – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is appalled to learn that the federal government has no timeline for the release of a National Action Plan to address the ongoing violence against Indigenous women.
On June 3, it will be a full year since the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Gender-Diverse People released its final report and 231 Calls For Justice.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised at that time that: “The work of the commissioners, the stories they have collected, and the Calls For Justice they have put forward, will not be placed on a shelf to collect dust.” And in December of last year, Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said of a plan: “We believe we have to have something in the window by June.”
But, after a year of almost no consultation with the people who matter – the Indigenous women of Canada – the Minister chose to announce through the news media that no action plan would be tabled in June and there is no timeline for creating such a document. Minister Bennett blamed the ongoing global pandemic for the delay.
Lorraine Whitman, President of NWAC, said the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for failing to protect the vulnerable Indigenous women of Canada who face increased risk of violence as a result of the disease and required social isolation.
“Rather than a national action plan, Indigenous women have been given a lack-of- action plan,” said Ms. Whitman. “Indigenous women are still dying and disappearing in Canada, families are still being left in the dark about the loss of their loved ones,” she said. “The time to act is now, not years or even months from now.”
NWAC wants – and has offered – to assist the government in developing the National Action Plan and will do whatever is needed to move it forward. It has provided Minister Bennett’s department with a list of eight immediate and tangible steps that could be taken – steps that would have a real impact on reducing the loss of life and start the healing process for those who are suffering. They could form the basis of the first version of the action plan which the Minister herself has said would be a “living document’ that is meant to be expanded and updated.
“This is a government that came to power saying no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” said Ms. Whitman. “We hope that principle has not been abandoned. We hope the Indigenous women and girls of Canada have not been abandoned.“
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