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All Canadians have a role to play in ending MMIW 'genocide': report

Last Updated Jun 3, 2019 at 3:56 pm PDT

Summary

National inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women, girls has released its final report after two year review

National inquiry labels violence against Indigenous women, girls in Canada 'genocide'

MMIWG national inquiry more than 200 recommendations

GATINEAU, Que. – After years of emotional testimony, those who demanded an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls can now focus on pushing for action on the recommendations made in a final report on the issue.

The final 1,200 page report calls violence against First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls a form of “genocide” and a crisis that has been “centuries in the making.”

“As the evidence demonstrates, human rights and Indigenous rights abuses and violations committed and condoned by the Canadian state represent genocide against Indigenous women, girls, and (LGBTQ and two-spirit) people,” it concludes. “These abuses and violations have resulted in the denial of safety, security, and human dignity.”

The report, the culmination of a three-year effort that was often beset by controversy, delays and personnel problems, documents what chief commissioner Marion Buller calls “important truths” — including that Canadian laws and institutions are themselves to blame for violating the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“I hope that knowing these truths will contribute to a better understanding of the real lives of Indigenous people and the violations of their human and Indigenous rights when they were targeted for violence,” Buller wrote.

Recommendations

The report was released publicly this morning with more than 200 recommendations to the federal government.

The steps necessary to “end and redress this genocide” must be no less monumental than the combination of systems and actions that have been used to “maintain colonial violence for generations,” the commissioners said.

The recommendations — framed in the report as “calls for justice” — include developing an effective response to human trafficking cases and sexual exploitation and violence, including in the sex industry. They are not optional, but constitute legal imperatives, it says.

Missing and murdered Indigenous women are believed to number in the thousands in Canada, but the report says that despite its best efforts to quantify the extent of the tragedy, “no one knows an exact number.”

WATCH: MMIWG national inquiry report presented to Trudeau

In 2005, the Native Women’s Association of Canada created a database tracking cases and produced a 2010 report documenting 582 missing and murdered Indigenous women. In 2014, the RCMP released a national overview and pegged the number of cases from between 1980 and 2012 at nearly 1,200. Other unverified estimates are far higher.

Responding to the report’s urgent conclusions is the responsibility not only of federal and provincial governments and law enforcement agencies, but all Canadians in both the immediate and long-term, it says.

“Individuals, institutions, and governments can all play a part. … We encourage you, as you read these recommendations, to understand and, most importantly, to act on yours.”

Missing and murdered Indigenous women are believed to number in the thousands in Canada, but the report says that despite its best efforts to quantify the extent of the tragedy, “no one knows an exact number.”

Calls for accountability

Indigenous activists in British Columbia say they’re dedicated to holding the government accountable to the National Inquiry’s report.

One witness who testified twice during the inquiry says there needs to be follow through on the report.

“I’m hoping that this isn’t just a report that’s thrown onto a shelf like all the other reports that have happened across Canada,” Lorelei Williams, who says her aunt and cousin were both murdered, told NEWS 1130. “So, I’m hoping with that, the government actually implements the recommendations as soon as possible, and I hope there’s some public accountability.”

Williams testified in Richmond on behalf of her own family, as well as in Whitehorse as a witness while supporting a friend.

Her aunt, Belinda Williams, has been missing since 1978, Williams explains, adding her cousin hasn’t been seen since 1996.

“Her DNA was later found on Robert Pickton’s farm,” she says.

“It’s definitely emotionally draining and it rips out my heart,” Williams adds.

Williams was set to head to Quebec for Monday’s closing ceremonies, but said she decided to stay in Vancouver to share her story at an international conference on women’s issues.

“Part of me feels like this is just going to be something that is going to be washed over. I’m already hearing that people are confused about the fact that it’s being called genocide. I get that, I totally understand that there was a genocide,” she explained.

Along with her continued fight for accountability, Williams is also encouraging others to learn more about Indigenous history in an effort to better understand the inquiry and how it came to its conclusions.

‘Long overdue’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was officially presented with the final report at the closing ceremony on Monday.

He called it an important day that was long overdue, and vowed to take action.

“You have my word that my government will turn the inquiry’s call for justice into real, meaningful, Indigenous-led action,” he said.

Hundreds of families who lost loved ones attended the ceremony, many shedding tears and holding pictures of their daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts or mothers, who have been murdered or never found.

Trudeau acknowledged that the justice system has failed missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“We will conduct a thorough review of this report and we will develop and implement a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people,” he added.

Related video: Violence toward Indigenous women, girls ‘not a relic of our past’, Trudeau says