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GNWT action plan on MMIWG delayed until the fall

The GNWT won't prioritize specific calls to justice its implementation of the calls from the final report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, said Caroline Wawzonek, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, in the legislative assembly on Wednesday. GNWT image

The GNWT's draft of its action plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) will be delayed until the fall.

Caroline Wawzonek, minister responsible for the Status of Women, said in the legislative assembly Wednesday that the tabling of the plan to implement the 231 calls to justice from the final report of the National Inquiry on MMIWG will be pushed back to October instead of June.

The final report was published in mid-2019.

When Wawzonek tabled Taking Action – the GNWT's work plan for preparing the draft – on Nov. 5, 2020, she told the assembly the draft of the approved action plan would be tabled in late May.

More consultation planned

The draft will be delayed because the government plans to take an additional step of consulting with Indigenous communities on its solutions.

The principles of the final report, Wawzonek explained, call for a decolonizing approach and a need to include families and survivors.

“The conclusions should be self-determined and Indigenous-led solutions. It is not good enough for the government to simply make our own list of what we are doing. (We) need to take that out to the Indigenous people ... and let them confirm if, in fact, us looking at ourselves is accurate.

“If we're going to do this right, they should be the ones that tell me, 'Yes, you're right. You're doing okay here, but you're not doing okay there.' We can't look at ourselves without going back out to those that we are hoping to be actually benefitting.”

The work plan on preparing the draft acknowledges that some of the calls for justice might take several years to be realized and the GNWT might tailor its responses to the unique realities of the NWT.

Problematic time frame

Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson took aim at the time frame for some of the calls to justice.

He pointed to the work plan putting the calls into three time lines: those that can be implemented immediately, those that will take one year to be implemented and those that require long-term planning.

“I am afraid that the systemic changes we need most, the calls to justice that we need to address systemic racism, will fall into that third category of long-term planning,” he said. “I have concerns about whether we will implement some of the most serious calls to justice in the life of this assembly.”

One reason why it could take a long time to action the calls to justice is money and the action plan should be costed to “put money behind our words.”

“When I go through the plan and if I cost it in my head, it's millions and millions more dollars than we actually have to fully implement. I think this has been a systemic problem across the GNWT is that we often create great action plans but don't back them up with the dollars.”

Action items not costed

Wawzonek admitted the action plan won't be fully costed.

“Implementing all 231 calls to justice will, indeed, cost probably not only millions. It may well cost billions of dollars. That's not going to deter me from putting forward the action plan. It's going to be a living document that goes back out into the community.”

As the plan is developed, departments would prepare their own budgets “looking at what we do already and where we need to go.”

Wawzonek declined to identify specific calls to justice she would put into action, such as call 4.5 that seeks a guaranteed annual living income for all Canadians, including Indigenous peoples; or 5.6 (4) on guaranteed access to independent legal services for Indigenous women, girls or 2SLGBTQQIA at no cost.

“I'm not going to prioritize or hierarchize the different calls,” she said.

Rather, the minister said she would do her best to maintain the principles from the inquiry and take a decolonizing, self-determining and trauma-informed approach to the 231 calls to justice.