Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya urged an end to talk, and called for action Friday at a press conference addressing the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ (MMIWG).

Following the 231 recommendations the Inquiry released Monday, Yakeleya called for concrete, measurable steps from territorial and federal government on its proposals. “Enough talk, let’s see some action,” he said.

The extensive recommendations include long-term violence prevention support, and a raft of proposals addressing housing, transit, food, a universal livable income, and women’s shelter funding. They were categorized as calls for governments; calls for industries, institutions, services and partnerships; Inuit, Metis and 2SLGBTQQIA-specific calls for justice; and calls for all Canadians.

Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya speaks to reporters at the Dene National Office on Friday.
Nick Pearce / NNSL Photo

The issue is in “the same category as residential schools, (and) the Sixties Scoop,” Yakeleya said. However, he added, the length and detail of the report meant a more detailed response would be “premature.”

Yakeleya said meetings with the Assembly of First Nations, and Denedeh chiefs were also still needed.

He said institutional inaction, as seen in the treatment of Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), had to be avoided and that the MMIWG should be at the forefront of upcoming elections. He advised to hold the feet of candidates and parties “to the fire” and ask how they plan to turn the inquiry’s recommendations into policy, while working with the families, the Dene, the Inuit, the Inuvialuit, and the Metis.

Yakeleya stopped short of discussing the Inquiry’s executive summary’s description of “the sum of the social practices, assumptions and actions detailed within this report” as genocide. The impacts on families and communities are his current focus, he said, including violence his family experienced that impacted him deeply.

“(This is) an opportunity for the nation to stop and say, ‘what’s going on? What’s out there? Who’s doing this to our Aboriginal women? How come we can’t solve that?” he said. “We can put a man on the moon but we can’t solve this issue. What’s stopping us?”

Crediting the federal government for initiating the inquiry, he said accountability will be key as territorial and federal elections take place this October.

“While nothing can replace the people that we lost, we can can build on the legacy of the situations encountered by both improving the system and the relationship,” he said. “We have an opportunity to further develop our reconciliation. This is an opportunity for Canada to redeem itself of the injustice on our Aboriginal women.”


Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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