The federal government today presented its response to the landmark report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), which was released two years ago. The 30-page report promises a series of “transformative changes” to address the persistent inequities Indigenous people face when dealing with the justice system.
To eradicate the scourge of violence disproportionately aimed against Indigenous women and gender-diverse individuals, the ‘Federal Pathway‘ study urged for a holistic solution co-developed with assistance from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. The government has promised to invest more money on Indigenous language, culture, infrastructure, health, and policing as part of the strategy. To ensure a culturally responsive approach to government, Ottawa will offer communities more influence over social services.
“Ending violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people requires significant and transformative change at all levels of government,” Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said, using an acronym that refers to two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual people. “As a government and as Canadians, we must do more and pledge to do better to stop this national tragedy,” she said, citing figures showing Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely than other women in Canada to be murdered or go missing.
Despite making up only 4% of the Canadian population, Indigenous women were the victims of 28% of all homicides committed against women in 2019, according to Statistics Canada data — a trend Bennett attributes to systematic prejudice and the country’s colonial history. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered $2.2 billion in new expenditure over five years to accomplish the ambitious new programs during a ceremony celebrating the report’s release.
“To the survivors and their families, elders, representatives and commissioners, and everyone else involved in this work – your voices have been heard,” Trudeau said, adding that he accepted the inquiry’s conclusion that the ongoing violence against Indigenous women is genocide. “We must first acknowledge the reality in order to really heal these wounds. And it’s not only about residential schools; Indigenous peoples endure a slew of historical and ongoing injustices ” he stated
Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women have long claimed that racism pervades the country’s justice system, resulting in poor police response to violent crimes in Indigenous areas and fewer cases being solved. The government has announced that it will introduce new legislation to identify First Nations-led policing as an “essential service” and allocate additional funding to these crime-fighting activities on reserve.
Ottawa also promises to expand the First Nations policing program to new areas and fund the repair, renovation, and replacement of current police buildings in First Nations and Inuit communities. The federal government is promising more investments for the RCMP, which is frequently in charge of policing in rural, northern, and isolated communities, in addition to giving municipalities additional resources to effectively police themselves.
According to Ottawa, the RCMP will be directed to combat systemic racism by “reforming recruitment and training processes,” collecting more race-based data to better track crime statistics, and creating the RCMP-Indigenous Collaboration, Co-development, and Accountability Office, a new directorate aimed at improving relations between police and the Indigenous peoples they serve. To prevent stigmatizing crime victims, the government wants RCMP officers to assess their acts through a “Indigenous lens.”