The chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle (NFSC) says in order to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, governments must act on recommendations, and create policies, but also must be held accountable at every step of the way, to ensure that they are doing all that they can do to keep women and girls safe.
Friday marked three years since the release of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, while also marking one year since the release of the federal MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan.
That plan, according to the federal government, was created as a “pathway” for the feds to support “systemic change to address the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls (MMIWG) and Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGBTQQIA+) people.”
One year after its release, Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, who is the chair of NFSC, a national organization made up of family members of missing or murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, and survivors of gender and race-based violence, spoke to federal ministers at a press event in Ottawa.
Anderson-Pyrz made it clear on Friday that she believes there still needs to be far more work done by governments at all levels to keep Indigenous women and girls safe, and to put actions in place based on the federal government’s own action plan.
She said that in the last year the “lack of action” on moving forward with the recommendations in the report has been “unacceptable.”
“In the last year there has been a staggering lack of accountability in implementing the national action plan, and the National Inquiry’s 231 Calls to Justice,” Anderson-Pyrz said. “I cannot state this enough, without the political will to create transformative change, this genocide will continue. The government must be accountable for its responsibility.
“These are legal imperatives, and they are not optional.”
A study released by Statistics Canada in late April of this year showed that Indigenous women across the country continue to experience much higher rates of violence and sexual assault than non-Indigenous women.
According to the report, 63% of Indigenous women have experienced physical or sexual assault in their lifetime in Canada, while 33% of non-Indigenous Canadians having experienced physical assault or sexual assault.
And in the city of Winnipeg, three Indigenous women were victims of homicide in just a three-week span last month.
Anderson-Pyrz is now asking that new policies be put in place across the country that measure accountability, and show if different levels of government are or are not doing enough to keep Indigenous women and girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people safe.
“There needs to be an accountability mechanism put into place to insure that political will is there, and to hold governments accountable,” she said. “We’re in a crisis, we’re in a national crisis and there is an urgency to act. We need concrete action.
“Without any type of accountability mechanism that lack of political will is going to continue.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun