“We need special action to assure a right to life … security … health and education for Native people in Canada. Those are basic rights assured to all Canadians — and they didn’t need a plan of action to be implemented. So why is there need for a special plan of action for Native people in Canada? To me, that means that Native people are not equal.” — Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro, Ottawa, December 6, 2019
(Ottawa, ON): Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro wrapped up his three-day visit to Canada with the view that the federal government needs to accelerate action on the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and its 231 Calls for Justice. Mr. Almagro was in Canada last week on the formal invitation of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).
During Mr. Almagro’s visit, the federal government announced its plans to develop a national plan of action by June 2020. While acknowledging that such a plan “is a step forward,” Mr. Almagro, who announced the striking of an OAS expert panel following the release of the final report of the MMIWG Inquiry, believes the plan cannot be considered a substantial step forward given the daily challenges that Canada’s Indigenous people face. “Sometimes one year is too much for some people to wait when this situation has gone on for many, many years,” he said.
Following NWAC’s Honouring Indigenous Women Reception the evening of Dec. 4, featuring a red dress display and Indigenous performances, Mr. Almagro had an opportunity to gain a first-hand perspective of the safety, security, social and economic issues confronting Indigenous rural and remote communities. Mr. Almagro spent Dec. 5, accompanied by NWAC’s president Lorraine Whitman, visiting several First Nations fly-in communities in Northern Ontario — including Fort Albany and Kashechewan.
For the final day of his visit, Mr. Almagro was engaged in high-level discussions covering key human rights issues impacting Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. In addition to meeting with NWAC Elders and representatives, Mr. Almagro participated in one-on-one meetings with community leaders, experts and academics. Thought leaders included: Mary-France Kinsley from the Office of the Correctional Investigator on Indigenous women in prison; Kerri Cheechoo, a professor and researcher on colonial violence; former commissioners of the National Inquiry into MMIWG Marion Buller, Michele Audette and Qajaq Robinson, as well as Fannie Lafontaine, Laval University law professor and author of the MMIWG report on genocide, and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
Mr. Almagro’s visit to Canada helped to further NWAC’s goal to develop international collaborative partnerships and seek the support of international human rights defenders to ensure implementation of the Inquiry’s 231 Calls for Justice.
Mr. Almagro indicated his interest in finding ways to help implement the Inquiry’s findings and plans to work with NWAC on a joint letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, outlining recommended next steps. He said, “I think the facts found during the Inquiry perfectly match with the legal definition of genocide, consisting of a coordinated plan of different actions to the destruction of the essential foundations of the original native people of Canada.”
“We welcome our partnership with Mr. Almagro and the OAS. NWAC is committed to continuing our efforts for positive social, economic and legal change — to change the story for Canada’s Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people,” says President Whitman.
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