The final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) minced no words Monday, calling the disparate number of murders and disappearances over the years and the society and institutions that allowed them to happen a “Canadian genocide.”
“Genocide is the sum of the social practices, assumptions, and actions detailed within this report,” the introduction states.
“As many witnesses expressed, this country is at war, and Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people are under siege.”
The report outlines hundreds of recommendations aimed at governments, institutions, police services and Canadians. The final report was released following a closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que.
Officially launched in September 2016 under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, the inquiry was mandated to explore the underlying causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, along with the cultural, social, economic and institutional catalysts that enable the continued violence against the vulnerable demographic.
Between 2017 and 2018, the inquiry heard from nearly 1,500 family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as survivors of violence, at dozens of heart-rending hearings across the country.
In January 2018, a series of hearings were held in Yellowknife.
The Inquiry was initiated after years of calls from Indigenous women’s groups to address what many called Canada’s “hidden crisis” — staggeringly high, disproportionate rates of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls.
On Monday, the inquiry, led by four commissioners and headed by chief commissioner Marion Buller, put forth 231 recommendations or “Calls for Justice,” categorized in the following groups: calls for all governments; calls for industries, institutions, services and partnerships; Inuit, Metis and 2SLGBTQQIA-specific calls for justice; and calls for all Canadians.
Calls for justice: all governments
Among the many recommendations aimed at all levels of government, the report recommends federal, provincial, territorial and municipal and Indigenous governments develop and establish a national action plan alongside Canada’s Indigenous peoples to confront violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
Evidence heard during the inquiry, “makes it clear that changing the structures and the systems that sustain violence in daily encounters is not only necessary to combat violence, but is an essential legal obligation of all governments in Canada,” states the report.
The report also cites the need for all governments to make police major crime units and major case management more accessible in remote and northern communities on a “faster basis than the service is being delivered now.”
Changes to Canada’s justice system are also called for.
When an offender is being sentenced for a crime, the court considers both mitigating and aggravating factors related to the case. The latter can range from assaults against a domestic partner — victims who are considered particularly vulnerable by the courts and Parliament — to committing an offence within a criminal organization. The final report recommends that violence against Indigenous women and girls should be an aggravating factor in and of itself, which could spell harsher sentences for offenders if implemented.
Calls for justice: police services
Police agencies — called to acknowledge the historical and contemporary relationship between Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA people and the justice system has been “largely defined by colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination and fundamental cultural and societal differences” — are urged to recruit more Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA people, to vet all recruits to safeguard against racial, gender and sexual orientation biases, and to implement anti-racism and language training for officers.
The final report recommends a “standardization of protocols for policies and practices that ensure that all cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people are thoroughly investigated.”
Notably, the report recommends the establishment of a national task force, made up of a team of specialized and independent investigators to review, and if necessary, re-investigate each case of all unresolved files on missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA people across Canada.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki stated the force will “study the final report and its recommendations and give careful consideration to changes that strengthen investigations, support survivors and their families … and reduce violence against Indigenous women, girls and the 2SLGBTQQIA community.”
Since October, RCMP G Division has employed a recruiter who, along with partners in “Community and Aboriginal Policing,” works to engage youth and “recruit suitable candidates,” for a career with the RCMP specifically within the NWT, stated spokesperson Marie York-Condon in an email Tuesday.
All in-training RCMP members, York-Condon stated, are required to take “Indigenous awareness training,” at the force’s national training centre. In the NWT, this is coupled with “Cultural Awareness training,” in which members transferring to a community are given a “package on the community.” Additional Indigenous-focused training courses are offered through online programs via the division’s partner agencies, added York-Condon.
According to NWT RCMP, there are 71 historical unresolved missing and murdered persons cases in the territory, 63 of which remain open investigations. CBC North reported earlier this month that a planned two-person G Division unit, dedicated to cold cases in the NWT, remained unstaffed a year into the hiring process.
York-Condon told Yellowknifer Tuesday the division appointed a corporal to head the unit earlier this week, who will need time to “review files and immerse themselves in the Historical Case Unit.”
Asked how many of the 71 total unresolved cases in the territory involve missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls, York-Condon stated the division is not yet in a position to say, but will be reviewing the figures along with national statistics.
“We have worked hard to build and maintain relationships with our Indigenous communities, including women and girls,” the email to Yellowknifer stated, adding the work done in the NWT will “continue to evolve.”
Calls for justice: all Canadians
The final report calls on all Canadians to “confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia, and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs: in their homes, workplaces, or in social settings,” and to “decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area.”
The report also calls on Canadians to:
- Denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
- Develop knowledge and read the Final Report. Listen to the truths shared, and acknowledge the burden of these human and Indigenous rights violations, and how they impact Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people today.
- Using what people have learned and some of the resources suggested, become a strong ally. Being a strong ally involves more than just tolerance; it means actively working to break down barriers and to support others in every relationship and encounter in which they participate.
- Protect, support, and promote the safety of women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people by acknowledging and respecting the value of every person and every community, as well as the right of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people to generate their own, self-determined solutions.
- Create time and space for relationships based on respect as human beings, supporting and embracing differences with kindness, love, and respect. Learn about Indigenous principles of relationship specific to those Nations or communities in their area and work, and put them into practice in all of their relationships with Indigenous peoples.
- Help hold all governments accountable to act on the Calls for Justice, and to implement
them according to the important principles we set out.
‘The 231 Calls for Justice must be implemented’
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), a non-profit group instrumental in making the National Inquiry a reality after years of advocacy work, called the release of the final report a “significant milestone” in identifying the causes of “all forms” of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada.
“The truths shared at the hearing tell thousands of stories of acts of genocide against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people that persists to this day,” stated a news release from NWAC issued Monday.
“We have the right to safety and security. Our women must be treated with respect and dignity,” stated Roseann Martin, an Elder at NWAC, who commended the families and survivors who “spoke up to make sure this is possible.”
To bring an end to discrimination and systemic violence, the “231 Calls for Justice must be implemented,” stated NWAC CEO Lynne Groulx.
The Native Women’s Society of the NWT, which also played a key role in the pre-inquiry findings leading up to the cross-country hearings, is expected to make a statement regarding the report’s Northern implications in the coming days.
The final report’s authors make it clear that despite the thousands of voices heard during the Inquiry, “without a doubt there are many more,” victims.
“What connects all these deaths is colonial violence, racism and oppression,” states the final report.
“Colonial violence, as well as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, has become embedded in everyday life – whether this is through interpersonal forms of violence, through institutions like the healthcare system and the justice system, or in the laws, policies and structures of Canadian society.”
The result, the report finds, is that for many Indigenous people violence has been normalized, “while Canadian society shows an appalling apathy…” states the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada.
“The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls finds that this amounts to genocide.”
“To put an end to this tragedy, the rightful power and place of women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people must be reinstated, which requires dismantling the structures of colonialism within Canadian society,” stated Commissioner Michèle Audette in a news release Monday.
“This is not just a job for governments and politicians. It is incumbent on all Canadians to hold our leaders to account,” added Audette.
The police-reported homicide rate of Indigenous women in the NWT between 2001 and 2014 was higher than the overall rate in Canada, according to the federal Justice Department.
You can read the full final report from the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls here.