On June 3, 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) presented its final report. At this event, the Prime Minister stressed the Government of Canada’s commitment to addressing this issue.
“To the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of Canada, to their families, and to survivors – we have failed you. But we will fail you no longer,” Justin Trudeau said.
Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the inquiry, said at the time, “This report is about deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide.”
The statistics tell us Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to go missing than any other demographic in Canada and Inuit women suffer the highest rates of violence in Canada, at 14 times the national average.
Statistics are cold, though, and only reflect a small portion of the picture.
That is why, on the two-year-anniversary of the MMIWG final report’s release, it is important to see the National Inuit Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, as part of the national response to the inquiry’s findings, completed after a year’s delay.
It is unfortunate that a plan meant to relieve some of the systemic inequality faced by those disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by Statistics Canada last week, was delayed by the same circumstances, but we finally have a plan encompassing the 51 communities across Inuit Nunangat and Inuit living in urban centres.
Produced in part by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, it is another impressive document, in size and scope, that shows that Canada’s human rights obligations must be met through a vast array of infrastructure, education, health care and justice investments.
Government of Nunavut Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik stated June 7 that “the Government of Nunavut (GN) is uniquely placed to advance the National Inquiry’s calls for justice over time, especially the Inuit-specific ones, because its programs, policies and initiatives are envisioned and implemented for a population that is 85 per cent Inuit.”
Sheutiapik is right when she says, “A full and meaningful response will take time and require human resource and financial capacity, political will, and not only a whole-of-government approach, but a territory-wide approach that includes all levels of government, agencies and Inuit organizations.”
The plan outlines 14 key areas where investment and action are needed, and those calls to action should be taken seriously by governments and organizations. The next steps of developing implementation plans with short, medium and long-term priorities will be key.
In the meantime, while the governance machine churns out further recommendations, Nunavummiut must focus on what can be changed at home. Continued advocacy, as draining as it is, must be kept up.
While many of the actions laid out are at the federal and territorial level, the action plan puts onus on Inuit land claims organizations to advocate change, prioritize self-determination and, where possible, make the differences and investments they can, be that in housing, mental health, or education and culture – whether formal, or surrounding parenting, child-rearing and healthy families.
The document concludes: “Only when we as Inuit women, girls and gender-diverse people are able to fully exercise and enjoy our human rights – including our rights to safety – can lasting reconciliation be accomplished.”
Reconciliation can begin through the federal government putting money and governance toward empowering Indigenous-led organizations to support healing from horrors all too recent and still ongoing.