MMIWG national action plan criticized by Indigenous leaders in B.C.

·4 min read
Chancey Yackel is pictured during a memorial for Red Dress Day that raises awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at city hall in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, May 5, 2021.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Chancey Yackel is pictured during a memorial for Red Dress Day that raises awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at city hall in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The federal government's response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is sorely lacking in substance and scope, according to some B.C. Indigenous leaders.

"This so-called action plan is another slap in the face," said Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

"Canada as a whole must take full accountability for their role in the ongoing genocide of our women and children and two-spirited people, and give the crisis that is MMIWG the urgent attention it deserves."

The national action plan released Thursday promises "substantial and transformative change" to tackle persistent inequities and comes two years after the MMIWG inquiry delivered a final report with 231 calls for justice to address the violence, racism and disproportionate deaths of Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

But Wilson says the plan shows no accountability on the part of government for creating the systems of racism and oppression faced by Indigenous people.

"Indigenous peoples are reeling from the historical and ongoing violence and genocide that is inflicted upon our people and communities," she said.

Appearing at a ceremony marking the release of the report, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised $2.2 billion in new spending to implement the national action plan and its promises to improve Indigenous language, culture, infrastructure, health and policing.

But speaking on a panel of Indigenous women experts, Wilson said because the plan is missing immediate actions, it only serves to push ongoing and critical issues down the road.

"Justice delayed is still justice denied. We can't wait three years for some of these priorities to be handed down," she said.

"Since the national inquiry, hundreds of women have gone missing and murdered — many in our valleys and our area... Many need help now, and this plan doesn't call for that."

Kukpi7(Chief) Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, says the national action plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is a 'slap in the face.'
Kukpi7(Chief) Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, says the national action plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is a 'slap in the face.' (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Indigenous women were victims in 28 per cent of all homicides perpetrated against women in 2019, according to data from Statistics Canada, even though they account for just four per cent of the Canadian population.

Estimates have put the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls over the past three decades as high as 4,000.

But with the Tk'emlúps te Secwe ́pemc First Nation announcing preliminary findings of as many as 215 children buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and prospects of similar discoveries at other residential school sites, many feel the number is much higher.

"[Kamloops Residential School] is more added to the list, more missing and murdered girls. And there's so many across the country," said Lorelei Williams, who testified at the MMIWG inquiry. "My people already knew about this and the truth was alway bound to come out."

Lorelei Williams testified at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry in 2018.
Lorelei Williams testified at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry in 2018.(Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Williams has both Skatin and Sts'ailes First Nations heritage. Her cousin, Tanya Holyk, was a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton and her aunt, Belinda Williams, went missing over 40 years ago.

In her view, the national action plan is not only lacking in immediate concrete actions but missing the important perspectives of grassroot groups, including the Coalition on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in B.C., of which she is a member.

"One of the main issues is the lack of consultation with Indigenous women survivors and Indigenous women's organizations," she said. "We've been trying to get involved somehow ... and we've been pushed out."

"This is our emergency. There [are] still women going missing at a high rate."

In a statement, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said it is calling for the development of an Indigenous women-led action plan with clear timelines, commitments and actions that encompass all levels of government.

"This document is the result of a government that has minimized the magnitude of the ongoing genocide of our sisters, aunties, daughters, mothers, and granddaughters," said Grand Chief Stewart Philip. "Canada is responsible for this genocide and is responsible for changing it now."

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