Indigenous advocates are calling the federal government’s new plan to address missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls a series of “aspirational statements,” not a real commitment to action.
That’s how Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson, treasury-secretary of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, characterized the report during a press conference shortly after its release Thursday (June 3).
The plan to move forward on the 231 calls to action that came from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls comes two years after the original report.
The plan, branded as the long-promised national action plan, is something of a preliminary, but comprehensive, framework developed by a large group of partners, including the families of victims and survivors, each of Canada’s distinct Indigenous groups as well as provincial, territorial and federal governments.
“One thing I was noticing in the plan is overall that justice delayed is justice denied. We can’t wait three years for some of these priorities to be handed down,” Wilson said. “Since the national inquiry, hundreds of women have gone missing and murdered many in our valleys, in our area. They go to court, and they look for justice, and they’re not finding it.”
Wilson said the plan was too reactive, and not proactive enough to help Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people before they find themselves in dangerous situations.
Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Ontario Native Women’s Association and a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, said that the action plan’s focus on individual nations can leave out many women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
“What people don’t recognize is that this excludes many Indigenous women who are not connected to a First Nation and Métis organization or any Inuit organization,” Lavell-Harvard said, noting that as many as 80 per cent of Indigenous people in Canada don’t live on a specific First Nations territory.
“We have seen with the recent COVID dollars how many women and children slipped through the cracks because of a nation-to-nation approach.”
Shelagh Day of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action decried the lack of concrete action steps in the plan.
“Let’s be clear: what was issued this morning is not a national action plan. A national action plan asks and answers the questions: what, how, who, and when,” Day said. “We were looking for and expecting concrete actions with responsibilities assigned timelines and resource allocations. That is not what we see here. What we have is some restatements of some of the calls for justice, but not a lot more.”
Funding for support services for survivors and family members is identified as the first immediate step in the plan, as well as “adequate funding” to ensure the survivors and families can remain involved to provide insight and input into the national action plan’s next steps.
While the action plan names and acknowledges the genocide perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples, Mi’kmaq laywer Pamela Palmater said it does not go far enough in addressing the “historic and ongoing genocide, that specifically targets Indigenous women and girls in very unique ways for violence, exploitation, dispossession and oppression.”
Palmater said that the plan lacks urgent action items to end the genocide.
“This was essentially a statement that in the future, we’re going to have an implementation, which is going to – in the future – have some other plans and some other target dates.”
Palmater took issue with the plan calling itself an “evergreen document.”
The last thing I want to hear in this country is that we have evergreen genocide, because that means there is no target end date, no measuring. I want the genocide to end now. And there are many, many concrete actions that they could take within the next two weeks to end genocide.”
– with files from The Canadian Press