Government of Canada – National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

by ahnationtalk on June 4, 201939 Views

Reducing the disproportionate rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls is an urgent issue in Canada. The Government of Canada is committed to addressing the systemic causes of violence and increasing the safety of Indigenous women and girls. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls presented its Final Report to the federal, provincial and territorial governments at a public closing ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec on June 3, 2019.

The Government of Canada welcomes the release of the Final Report and is committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to help prevent and eliminate violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People in future generations. It is an integral part of the Government’s commitment to reconciliation.

BackgroundOn September 1, 2016, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was launched as a key government initiative to end the disproportionally high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls. The Inquiry was also the Government of Canada’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #41.Footnote 1 The Inquiry conducted in-depth study and analysis between September 2016 to December 2018 on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, collecting information from community and institutional hearings; past and current research; collaboration with Elders and Knowledge Keepers; and forensic analysis of police records. The Inquiry also gathered evidence from over 1400 witnesses, including survivors of violence, the families of victims, and subject-matter experts.

The Government of Canada has taken a family-first approach to address the National Inquiry’s interim recommendations, recognizing the significant strength and courage of the family members of murdered or missing Indigenous women and girls that contributed to the Inquiry. This included an allocation of $50 million in funding to:

  • provide health and support services to survivors and their families;
  • support a national oversight body at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police;
  • support a review of police policies and practices; and,
  • commemorate the lives and legacies of Indigenous women and girls.

Steps along the WayThe Government of Canada announced on June 5, 2018, that it had granted the Commission an extension to submit its Final Report on April 30, 2019. The extension allowed for the National Inquiry to gather more testimonies and statements from survivors and families, examine institutional policies and practices, and undertake the research necessary to further inform its recommendations. Additional funding was provided by the Government of Canada to support the operational needs of the Inquiry during the extension, and to provide aftercare to families and survivors who testified.  On April 3, 2019, the Commission formally requested a one-month extension to complete the Final Report, pushing their deadline to May 31, 2019.  The Inquiry publically announced the publication of their final report to take place on June 3, 2019.The federal Terms of Reference for the National Inquiry were amended to reflect the new timelines for the Commission to deliver the Final Report and wind-down its operations. The appointments of the Commissioners leading the Inquiry were also extended.

Interim RecommendationThe recommendations of the Inquiry’s interim report, released on November 1, 2017, identified changes that could be implemented to improve the functioning of the Inquiry and better address the needs of survivors and family members. Canada took action in these areas:

  • Providing $21.3 million to complement the health supports provided by the Inquiry.
  • Extending the timeframe for Family Information Liaison Units and funding for community-based organizations to support families until March 2020 and adding resources in order to do so.
  • Establishing a commemoration fund to help honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People .
  • Funding a review of police policies and practices in regards to their relations with the Indigenous peoples they serve. Up to $1.25 million over two years will be provided to organizations with expertise in law enforcement and policing to lead the review.
  • Investing $9.6 million over five years to support the establishment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s new National Office of Investigative Standards and Practices (NOISP) a significant proportion of whose work will focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls investigations.

Action taken since the launch of the National InquiryThe Government of Canada said it would not wait for the final National Inquiry’s final report to begin acting to end the national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The Government of Canada continues to engage with Indigenous peoples and take concrete actions to eliminate violence towards women and girls, and protect future generations. Much work remains.

Focusing on Prevention

  • The Government of Canada continues to invest in housing, education and the transformative reform of child and family services with a focus on prevention, ensuring children are connected to their language and culture and keeping families together. The Inquiry’s interim report recognized strong links between the child welfare system and violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada and identified a need for responsive, accountable, and culturally appropriate child and family services.
  • Canada is engaging with Indigenous organizations through It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV), to put forward actions to help address violence against Indigenous women and girls and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People.

Ensuring Indigenous Women’s Voices are Heard

  • On February 1, 2019, the Government of Canada and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), along with the Provincial and Territorial Member Associations of NWAC, signed the Canada–Native Women’s Association of Canada Accord. Through the Accord, Canada and NWAC are working together to identify joint priorities and co-develop policy, programs, and legislation to include the distinct perspectives of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.
  • In June 2017, the Government of Canada and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canda signed the Canada–Pauktuutit MOU establishing a deeper, whole-of-government relationship to address the issues of common concern that directly affect the well-being and safety of Inuit women and children across Canada.
  • The Government of Canada is working with Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak to ensure that Métis women’s voices are heard, working towards empowering Métis women, improving their social and economic conditions, and ensuring that Métis women are included in policy development.

Strengthening JusticeThe Government of Canada is undertaking a broad review of the criminal justice system.

  • Administration of justice is a core element of Indigenous self-governance and community wellbeing. To foster a dialogue on the important work of rebuilding Indigenous systems of justice, the Government of Canada held a symposium in May 2019. Further, Budget 2019 proposes to provide $10.0 million over five years to support the revitalization of Indigenous laws.
  • Through the Indigenous Justice Program, the Government of Canada supports Indigenous community-based justice programs that, where appropriate, offer alternatives to mainstream justice processes that help prevent and address root causes of violence, as well as reduce vulnerabilities to violence.
  • The Government of Canada introduced several pieces of legislation that include measures to address violence against women. Bill C-75 proposes several measures to strengthen the criminal justice system’s response to protect victims of intimate partner violence and human trafficking. Bill C-78 proposes amendments to the Divorce Act that would require courts to consider family violence during divorce proceedings.
  • In December 2018, we strengthened sexual assault laws in the Criminal Code. These changes clarified circumstances where consent cannot be obtained, and where the defence of mistaken belief in consent will not available to an accused. In addition, there are now clear rules for the admissibility of certain types of evidence, and we clarified that the complainant is entitled to be represented by legal counsel at proceedings in relation to the admissibility of certain types of evidence.
  • The RCMP continues to actively investigate unresolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Investigators across the country are dedicated to reviewing files of missing and murdered women, including Project DEVOTE in Manitoba and E-PANA in British Columbia.

Improving Safety and Security

  • Canada has been expanding the network of shelters and transition houses for those fleeing domestic violence. With Budget 2016, the Family Violence Prevention Program collaborated with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to build and operate five new on-reserve shelters across Canada to be operational in June 2019. We also provided core funding to the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence (NACAFV) to act as a national coordinator by supporting shelters and their staff through training forums, prevention activities, research, and collaboration with key partners. In 2017-2018, NACAFV took action to ensure that the findings of the latest shelter needs assessments are addressed.
  • The Government of Canada continues to work alongside federal partners as part of the whole-of-government approach to implementing the federal Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence.
  • Public Safety Canada continues work to improve community safety for Indigenous peoples. For example, Public Safety Canada’s Aboriginal Community Safety Planning Initiative supports Indigenous communities in the development of customized Community Safety Plans.
  • The RCMP also has programs such as the KARE/Pro-Active Team in Alberta where police officers and operational support personnel work to minimize the risk of violence to vulnerable persons.

Improving Oversight and Awareness

  • The RCMP’s National Office of Investigative Standards and Practices (NOISP) is currently staffing 10 full-time positions specifically linked to MMIWG investigations, that will provide national oversight, develop and deliver advanced investigative training and set national standards for major case investigations.
  • Many changes have been made to RCMP policies, procedures and training over the course of the National Inquiry, including strengthening missing person and sudden death investigations to improve quality, oversight and communication with families. The RCMP has also strengthened cultural awareness training for all employees, including at the cadet training centre in Regina.
  • As part of It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, the RCMP received funding to design and develop cultural competency and trauma-informed gender-based violence training that will be offered to all RCMP employees starting in 2019-20. The training program is being developed in consultation with external experts in the fields of trauma and gender-based violence, an advisory council of Indigenous elders, and government stakeholders.

Facts & Figures

Violence prevention and victim support

  • Budget 2016 announced up to $33.6 million over five years, and up to $8.3 million in ongoing additional funding to better support shelters serving victims of family violence in First Nations communities; and $10.4 million over three years to construct five new shelters.
  • In collaboration with Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation, the Family Violence Prevention Program supported the construction of five new shelters anticipated to be operational by June 2019. The fifth shelter opened in November 2018. This will bring the total network of shelters to 46.
  • To date, the Government of Canada has invested over $200 million across government to prevent gender-based violence, support survivors and their families, and create more responsive legal and justice systems through Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address GBV.

Policing

  • The Government has invested up to $291.2 million over five years, starting in 2018–2019, for policing in First Nation and Inuit communities.

Family and community support

  • Budget 2018 provided $1.449 billion over six years for First Nations Child and Families Services. The Government also invested an additional $634.8 million over 5 years (and ongoing) through Budget 2016.
  • The Government is providing dedicated funding to support the implementation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis housing strategies. Budgets 2017 and 2018 have provided:
    • An additional $600 million over three years to support housing on reserve as part of a 10-year First Nations Housing Strategy that is being developed with First Nations;
    • $400 million over 10 years to support an Inuit-led housing plan in the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit. This is in addition to the $240 million over 10 years announced in Budget 2017 to support housing in Nunavut; and,
    • $500 million over 10 years to support the Métis Nation’s housing strategy.
  • To improve education outcomes, the Government has invested $2.6 billion in primary and secondary education on reserve.
  • Starting in 2016-2017, $969.4 million over five years was invested in First Nations education infrastructure on reserve.
  • Budget 2017 announced an investment of $118.5 million over five years in the Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples (formerly the Urban Aboriginal Strategy), with some programs focusing on women transitioning out of emergency shelters, mentoring for youth, community wellness, pre-employment supports, and cultural awareness.
  • Introduced in Budget 2016, the new Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment targeting low and middle-class families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. On average, families benefitting from the CCB receive about $6,800 per child per year.
  • Budget 2018 provided $327.6 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, for a multi-pronged approach to tackle gun and gang activity in Canada. Indigenous organizations, among others, will have access to this funding to help build capacity to address the issue of guns and gangs through education, outreach and research.
  • Budget 2019 announced that the Government intends to develop a new whole-of-government strategy to combat human trafficking. This builds on the investment of $14.51 million over five years, and $2.89 million per year ongoing announced in Budget 2018 to establish a National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Footnotes

Footnote 1
We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls. The inquiry’s mandate would include:

  1. Investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
  2. Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools.

NT5

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