OTTAWA – Today the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) announced its plan for meeting the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Our Calls, Our Actions is a plan developed by Indigenous women for Indigenous women that has been years in the making. It consists of 65 + concrete actions that NWAC will take to start to address the 231 Calls for Justice issued by the Inquiry Commissioners when they released their final report on June 3, 2019.
“In our Final Report, Reclaiming Power and Place, we emphasized the importance of decolonizing and rights-based approaches to the implementation of the Calls for Justice. We also stressed the need for Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people to lead this important work. NWAC’s Action Plan captures these crucial principles,” Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“This is what our members want us to do. This is what the Commissioners of the National Inquiry said is needed. And most importantly, this is what the Indigenous women of Canada and victims and survivors asked for throughout their testimony during the Inquiry,” said Lorraine Whitman, NWAC’s President.
The NWAC plan is action oriented. It is fully costed. Its goals are measurable. Its activities are inclusive of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. First Nations, Metis and Inuit specific approaches to the implementation of the activities will be developed as needed. The plan will be constantly renewed and updated. And it is aligned with the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry.
At the same time, NWAC is also announcing its latest initiative – the most significant initiative to prevent and intervene in violence and meet the Inquiry’s Calls related to healing centres: NWAC’s Resiliency Lodges, one of which is located in Que., a second in New Brunswick that is being prepared to open and others that will built across the country.
Later this week, the federal government will introduce the results of work that has been done to create the National Action Plan that was mandated by the National Inquiry in Calls for Justice 1.1. Regrettably, NWAC leaders will not be standing with the government as contributors to that document. NWAC has walked away from the process that led to its creation.
As Ms. Whitman explained in a letter sent last week to Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, NWAC believes the approach taken by the government to address the Calls for Justice is fundamentally flawed.
The government created a number of committees consisting of Indigenous representatives to provide input to the Government of Canada plan. But NWAC was denied a seat on key working level committees where the main ideas for a National Action Plan were formulated. NWAC was not permitted to be part of the First Nations, Métis, Inuit, 2SLGBTQQIA, or Family Survivors Circle committees, even though those committees addressed issues of importance to the women NWAC represents. That meant NWAC was shut out of the major decision-making processes for creating the Government of Canada action plan including concrete actions and implementation of those actions.
In addition, on the committees that NWAC was permitted to have a seat, NWAC President and committee representative Lorraine Whitman, was subjected to lateral violence and hostility. That hostility eventually reached levels that forced NWAC to walk away from the process.
“We could no longer be part of a process that was so toxic and dysfunctional,” said Ms. Whitman.
For those reasons, NWAC cannot be a signatory to the action plan announced by the government however, we do support all of the other participants in the planning process.
NWAC intends to move forward co-operatively with the government, and all Canadians, in enacting Our Calls, Our Actions, its own plan which has been costed at an estimated $30 million annually. NWAC will seek those funds from all levels of government as well as from private donors and foundations.
At the core of the plan are the Resiliency Lodges that will provide on the land holistic healing and navigation and Elder-led counselling services to Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. They will offer health and wellness programs, preserve language and culture. They will also be lodges for fostering the economic self-sufficiency that will help lift Indigenous women and their families out of poverty, ending the social and economic marginalization that the National Inquiry said was one of the four pathways for maintaining the violence.
With this plan, NWAC commits to take action, help build resiliency, prevent violence, and intervene to save lives.
“The days of aspirational documents, and plans to create a plan, have come and gone. It is time to put the Calls for Justice into effect,” said Ms. Whitman. “It is time to end the genocide.” The 231 Calls for Justice are “Our Calls” and NWAC’s plan is “Our Actions”.