Trigger Warning

This webpage and the links and documents within it contain discussions of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people, violations of bodily integrity and genocide, which may be triggering.

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For further resources, crisis lines, toolkits and shelter contacts, NWAC has created a Resource ‘Zine with regional contact information.

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If you are experiencing crisis, you may phone the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310.

Vision Statement

The Native Women’s Association of Canada is committed to developing concrete actions to end the cycle of violence that affects Indigenous communities, particularly violence which may lead to the disappearance or death of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. NWAC advocates on behalf of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people to provide long-term, adequate funding for healing and support services for families and communities. By providing families and communities with a place to heal and receive support, strength where and resilience can be fostered.  

Elder SpeakingImage of Red Dresses in a dress, the symbolism for the Missing Murdered and Indigenous Women Awareness Project

Summary

The United Nations defines violence against women as gender-based violence that can result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering. Violence can happen in all cultures, religions and communities, but due to Canada’s history of colonization, Indigenous women face higher rates of violence than non-Indigenous women. Once held in high regard as leaders and givers of life, Indigenous women have been devalued because of race and gender. This has led to disproportionally higher rates of experienced violence, spousal assault, family violence and sexual assault towards Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people.

Honouring Indigenous Women

For many years, Indigenous women and gender diverse people have been working to reclaim their traditional roles, which have drastically changed since colonization. NWAC created the Honouring Indigenous Women Toolkit as an educational resource to heal Indigenous communities, and address the need to empower and restore honour and respect for Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. The toolkit can be used by Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people to understand the traditional roles of their respected, valued and honoured ancestors.

The toolkit and accompanying guide can also be used for youth to learn traditional values and help foster a sense of pride for having Indigenous heritage. It identifies many of the changes necessary to achieve reconciliation, healing, respect and honour, and helps youth connect to their hearts, spirits and sense of self. Some of the topics revolve around traditional roles of women, defining respect and honour, valuing yourself, mindfulness, sustainability in culture, 2SLGBTQQIA, MMIWG and more. It takes courage to stand up for the rights of women. Through this work, communities can heal through equality, respect and honour, and future generations can take pride in who they are.

Honouring Women Logo
You Are Not Alone Logo

You Are Not Alone

The legacies of colonization such as residential schools and the 60s scoop, socio-economic conditions like poverty, and sexism, racism and discrimination have all played major roles in the breakdown of healthy families and communities for Indigenous peoples. This is especially noticeable in the high rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women, who face life-threatening, gender-based violence, and experience more violent crimes than non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women who find themselves in abusive relationships can find themselves without the means or ability of removing themselves from their situation. They can also face fears and beliefs, causing them to stay in abusive relationships.

You Are Not Alone: A Toolkit for Aboriginal Women Escaping Domestic Violence, provides Indigenous women with community safety planning resources to address domestic violence. The toolkit provides understanding and knowledge of various topics relating to family violence, background knowledge on the impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities, and community safety plans to help women, girls and gender diverse people identify their support network and strategies for leaving an abusive situation. Every person deserves to be treated with respect and kindness, and to feel safe and happy. Many people have had these same fears and beliefs, and have managed to build healthy, safe and happy lives for themselves and their children by leaving violent relationships.

Sisters in Spirit

Sisters in Spirit began as a research, education, policy initiative led by Indigenous women. The goal was to conduct research and raise awareness of the alarming rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Through developed databases, SIS can track and investigate the causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. SIS also works closely with families to document their experiences and recommendations, and to help restore the memory of their loved ones. Each October 4, a vigil is organized to honour the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Family members, community members and concerned citizens gather to raise awareness and provide support to those who have lost a loved one.

Through SIS and NWAC’s partnership, resources and activities have been created to help raise awareness, work towards healing and reconciliation, and end the marginalization that Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people face. These projects include Voices of Our Sisters in Spirit: A Report to Families and Communities and NWAC’s Faceless Doll Project. These projects have the purpose and intention of moving towards social change, educating the public and raising awareness on the marginalization that Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people face.

Drumming

Final Report of Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

On June 3, 2019, the Final Report from the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls was released. In that report, the Inquiry made 231 Calls for Justice. It also concluded that the acts of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people in Canada constitutes “genocide”.

On June 21, 2019, seven years after the initial launch of the Faceless Dolls Project, NWAC launched Phase Two “Putting a Face on Justice: From Calls for Justice to Action”. In light of the Final Report on MMIWG and to honour their lives and stories, NWAC decided to put faces on the faceless dolls and to give a voice to the voiceless women.

It involves encouraging youth in classrooms across the country to engage in activities designed to help them connect to their hearts, spirits and sense of self. NWAC’s Honouring Project bag contains a toolkit, guide, colouring book and pencils, coloured felt sheets, doll patterns and accessories to create dolls — all the materials necessary to give a face to the once faceless.

Recommendations

  1. Engage with communities through a culture and gender-based lens to address and end the systemic violence that impacts Indigenous women, girls, gender diverse people and their families and communities.  
  2. Provide Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people with the option and opportunity of removing themselves from abusive relationships through community and network support. 
  3. Enhance, promote and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people.