Call to Action # 41: Actions and Commitments

MMIWG Interim Report and Govt. Response

June 18, 2018

Government Response to MMIWG Interim Report Recommendations

The Interim Report was released on November 1, 2017

As the National Inquiry focuses its attention on systemic causes of violence and concrete actions to end violence, with a decolonizing, gendered, human-rights framework, we endorse and will build upon existing recommendations. These include:

  • Federal, provincial, and territorial governments publicly acknowledging and condemning violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people;
  • Federally coordinated, cross- jurisdictional national action plans on:
    • addressing violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people;
    • public education and greater public awareness of violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people;
    • compensation for family members and/or a healing fund for survivors and families;
    • properly resourced initiatives and programming to address root causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people;
    • improved access to safe housing for Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people;
    • responsive, accountable, and culturally appropriate child and family services;
    • bridging education (primary to post-secondary), skills training, and employment gaps between Indigenous peoples and non- Indigenous people;
    • addressing the disproportionate rates of poverty among Indigenous people, and Indigenous women specifically;
    • accessible and culturally appropriate health, mental health, addictions, and trauma services for Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people;
    • programming for Indigenous men to help break and prevent cycles of violence;
    • protecting Indigenous women,
      girls, and LGBTQ2S people involved in survival sex work or who are being trafficked for the purposes of
      sexual exploitation;
    • improving relationships between police services and Indigenous communities;
    • properly resourced and accessible community and restorative justice measures.
  • Law reform and/or repeal of discriminatory legislation, including persisting gender discrimination under the Indian Act;
  • Repudiation of concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius;
  • More comprehensive and ethical information-sharing concerning violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people;
  • More information concerning the performance of programs and strategies meant to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people;
  • Properly resourced programming that addresses violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people to be led by Indigenous peoples, especially Elders, Indigenous women, Two-Spirit and trans people, and Indigenous women’s organizations;
  • More frequent and accessible transportation services available to Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people;
  • More representative police forces with better resourced Indigenous liaison officers and units in local police forces;
  • More immediate, proactive, and thorough investigations into Indigenous women’s, girls’, and LGBTQ2S people’s deaths and disappearances;
  • More responsive, transparent, and accountable policing (including comprehensive and independent police oversight);
  • More culturally responsive and accessible victim services;
  • Better supported community-based first response (search and rescue);
  • Public commemoration of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

All recommendations aimed at ending violence and keeping Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people safe should include a decolonizing approach that recognizes the inherent jurisdictions of Indigenous Peoples, that solutions should stem from Indigenous communities and Nations, and that these solutions should be properly resourced by the appropriate jurisdictions.

Calls for Immediate Action

The National Inquiry calls for immediate action for:

  1. Implementation of all Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, particularly those that impact Indigenous women and children, including the immediate implementation of Jordan’s Principle and the immediate and full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation, and including a federal action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of UNDRIP;
    • Federal Government actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • To date, this has been partially implemented, and we recognize that the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is in itself a fulfilled TRC Call to Action. Other actions include endorsing and passing New Democratic MP and reconciliation critic Romeo Saganash’s Bill 262, a private member’s bill aimed at ensuring that Canada’s laws are in harmony with those rights set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a declaration that Saganash himself helped to create. At time of this writing, the Bill was in its second reading, in Senate. In 2018, the federal government had also agreed to work toward the equivalent of Jordan’s Principle for Inuit children, to ensure health care for them would not be delayed. In addition, Bill C-91, An Act Respecting Indigenous Languages, which would establish measures for long-term and sustainable funding for the support and promoting Indigenous languages, was unveiled in early 2019. Collectively, these are important pieces of work, which will require careful implementation and reporting. In particular, ensuring that the principles that animate them are applied to all services that can help to promote security and safety for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people is a complicated process, but one that we argue needs to move more urgently and quickly.
  2. Full compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling (2016) that found that Canada was racially discriminating against First Nations children.
    • Federal Government actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • This has not been implemented. Canada has now received seven non-compliance orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society is back in court against Canada, which is now rejecting First Nations children’s claims based on their lack of Status as determined by the Indian Act. Aside from the many problems with assigning First Nations identity through colonial legislation such as the Indian Act, which we cover in more detail elsewhere in this report, the CHRT decision makes no distinction between Status and non-Status First Nations children, and the Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that Ottawa has a fiduciary duty to non-Status First Nations people, and to Métis. As of February 19, 2019, the tribunal issued interim relief orders for Jordan’s Principle in favour of the Caring Society, stating that non-Status First Nations children in urgent situations will be covered under Jordan’s Principle until the evidence has been heard regarding the definition of “First Nations.” Given that the Canadian Human Rights Act forbids discrimination based on race, it is the Caring Society’s position that Jordan’s Principle also applies to Inuit children where public services have been delayed or denied. The National Inquiry heartily agrees with Dr. Cindy Blackstock when she says: “When I look at the wealth of this country, I think that equality for First Nations children should come in a leap, not in a shuffle. And just frankly, if they can afford to spend five billion on a pipeline, they can afford to eradicate inequalities in education and other areas for their kids.”

National Inquiry Procedural Recommendations and Federal Government Response

Along with the endorsement of existing recommendations that can immediately address systemic violence and its underlying causes, the National Inquiry recommends the following:

  1. That the federal government find a way to provide the contact information of the families and survivors who participated in the pre-Inquiry process to the National Inquiry. Alternatively, that the federal government provide families and survivors who participated in the pre-Inquiry process information on how to participate in the National Inquiry.
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • To our knowledge, this was never done. Many families who participated in the pre-Inquiry consultation process told our Outreach and Support Services team members that while they were glad to see the National Inquiry moving forward, the registration process itself was confusing due to the manner in which Canada conducted its pre-Inquiry consultations. Many families believed that being part of those placed them on a list; the reality was that these were separate processes. The pre-Inquiry process led families to believe that we would have their contact information and we would reach out to them. Also, many families believed that as Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had their contact information, we would have that information too and reach out to them. This was not the case. We sincerely regret that family members and survivors experienced added stress and confusion regarding our registration process as a result.
  2. That federal, provincial, and territorial governments provide project funding, in addition to regular operational funds, to help ensure Indigenous organizations’ full and meaningful participation in the National Inquiry.
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • This recommendation was partially implemented. The federal government did increase funding to help improve the participation of the Parties with Standing, who consist mostly of Indigenous organizations, at the National Inquiry’s urging. However, many smaller community and grassroots organizations, which are already underfunded and understaffed, did not receive any additional funding to participate in the process or help the Inquiry do community outreach. In addition, the requirement to pre-pay expenses and then get reimbursed was taxing for already overstretched organizations reliant on sometimes unstable funding.
  3. That the federal government establish a commemoration fund in collaboration with national and regional Indigenous organizations (including Indigenous women’s organizations) and in partnership with family coalitions, Indigenous artists, and grassroots advocates who have spearheaded commemoration events and initiatives related to missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people.
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • This is one of the few recommendations that the Government of Canada responded to directly. The federal government, through Status of Women Canada, committed to a commemoration fund that would provide $10 million over two years “to honour the lives and legacies of Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S individuals.” The commemoration fund committed to supporting Indigenous communities in developing and implementing commemorative events. The National Inquiry is glad to see that the federal government recognizes the power of public commemoration to “honour truths, support healing, create awareness, and to advance reconciliation.” However, we have serious concerns with the way the federal government reinterpreted this recommendation. In particular, our recommendation specifically noted the importance of involving Indigenous women’s organizations, family coalitions, Indigenous artists, and grassroots advocates. However, the call for proposals for this commemoration fund applies only to legally constituted organizations, and it is not clear to what extent others will be able to access it. This excludes these very same family coalitions and grassroots organizations we wanted to include, who have been organizing around missing and murdered women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people for decades with very little support. It can be a long and onerous process to legally incorporate as an organization; coupled with the very short time frame organizations were given to apply, this almost certainly excludes the very groups we intended this recommendation to reach.
      • July 13, 2020 – Government has invested over $13 million in over 100 commemoration initiatives from coast to coast to coast to help honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, including LGTBQ and Two-Spirit people. The Government of Canada announced today that it is providing $100,000 in support of the Inuulitsivik Health Centre’s On the Land workshops-commemoration events in the communities of Puvirnituq and Inukjuak, Quebec, and for the commission of a commemoration sculpture. This project will help honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people, and increase awareness about this ongoing national tragedy.
  4. That the federal government immediately provide additional funding to Health Canada’s Resolution Health Support Program and expand its services to meet the increased needs flowing from the National Inquiry’s work, and at a minimum for the duration of the National Inquiry
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • In response, the Government of Canada committed to increase health support and victim services by providing $21.3 million over three years to complement the health supports provided by the inquiry, such as allowing the expansion of services to include all survivors, family members and those affected by the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, improving their access to health support services and extending the timeframe during which health support services will be available up to June 30, 2020.
      • They also committed to “providing an additional $5.42 million in 2019–2020 to extend the timeframe for the two Department of Justice Canada initiatives: Family Information Liaison Units and funding for community-based organizations to support families beyond the life of the National Inquiry.” The National Inquiry welcomed this announcement, and in particular the portion of the Resolution Health Support Program that was designated to support the health needs of those who participated in the National Inquiry. This did help family members and survivors.
      • However, the National Inquiry was only minimally consulted in how to allocate these funds. Because most of the funds were allocated through regional First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) offices, the support services available to family members and survivors did not include travel or cultural healing, wellness ceremonies, or transportation to meet with Elders or traditional medicine practitioners, instead covering only Western approaches to health and wellness – namely, counselling. While counselling is, in fact, an important part of many Indigenous Peoples’ healing journeys, cultural safety must be a key component in any Indigenous health and wellness service. However, the FNIHB did lift all eligibility criteria so that everyone could seek advice, including all those affected by the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, whether they be Status First Nations, non-Status First Nations, Inuit or Métis. In addition, distributing these funds through existing regional offices meant that families and survivors who already had trouble accessing health services due to living in rural and remote areas continued to have the same problems accessing these funds.
  5. That Health Canada’s Resolution Health Support Program provide funding to Indigenous organizations and other service providers (including provincial and territorial governments) through contribution agreements and transfer funds to provide the necessary health supports to families and survivors participating in the National Inquiry’s Truth-Gathering Process and engaging in its commemoration activities.
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • The goal of this recommendation was to ensure that families and survivors, and not only established organizations, had a voice in their healing and commemoration. The National Inquiry was ultimately successful in negotiating contribution agreements with individuals for their aftercare plans, which a Canadian government had never agreed to before. This gave families and survivors direct ownership over their own healing and wellness. We discuss this in more detail in Chapter 9.
  6. That the federal government undertake an engagement process with families, survivors, Indigenous organizations, and the National Inquiry to investigate the feasibility of restoring the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • To date, this important recommendation has not been implemented.
  7. That the federal government work collaboratively with provinces and territories to create a national police task force to which the National Inquiry could refer families and survivors to assess or reopen cases or review investigations.
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • The Government of Canada announced that they would provide $9.6 million over five years [which] will support the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)’s new National Investigative Standards and Practices Unit. Members of this unit will provide national oversight to major RCMP investigations. A significant proportion of this oversight will focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls investigations. However, this does not fulfill the National Inquiry’s recommendation. We maintain that Canada needs an independent national police task force specifically designed to meet the needs of family members and survivors of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, which would include non-police members and investigators, and other built-in, transparent oversight mechanisms.
      • Our most important objection to providing additional funding to the RCMP in this manner is that, once again, this involves police policing themselves. The RCMP have not proven to Canada that they are capable of holding themselves to account – and, in fact, many of the truths shared here speak to ongoing issues of systemic and individual racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination that prevent honest oversight from taking place. In addition, our recommendation was for a national police task force, whereas the government’s response includes only the RCMP, which does not cover other police service investigations or areas covered by a national task force.
      • The National Inquiry is also concerned about the non-specific language used, in that “a significant portion” will go toward investigations of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In 2010, the federal government cut funding to the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s “Sisters in Spirit” research, education, and policy initiative to provide additional funding to other departments and to the RCMP, where enhancements made were general and not specific to Indigenous women and girls.64 These actions don’t inspire confidence for the future.
  8. Given the short timeframe of the National Inquiry and the urgency of establishing robust administrative structures and processes, that the federal government provide alternatives and options to its administrative rules to enable the National Inquiry to fulfill the terms of its mandate.
    • Federal Government Actions as per the MMIWG Final Report
      • Overall, the National Inquiry recognizes that many improvements were made to expedite some administrative services, particularly in the areas of staff hiring, security clearance, and procurement of goods and services. However, problem-solving administrative processes that were designed for indeterminate and well-established federal government organizations continued to cause significant delays and frustration. Such administrative processes do not lend themselves to inquiries with short timelines, let alone a National Inquiry with an Indigenous cultural mandate that stresses the need to accomplish the work in a trauma-informed and decolonizing way.
      • The area where this had the deepest effect on families and survivors was in aftercare, where the critical support the National Inquiry needed to provide to participants in order to avoid being retraumatized as a result of sharing their truths was placed on shaky ground. This came to a head in January 2018, when the federal government challenged the National Inquiry’s Terms of Reference and authority to provide health support to families and survivors in preparation for and during their appearance before the National Inquiry, and after sharing their truths. This effectively froze all movement on aftercare supports for three months, while families and survivors, including those in urgent crises, suffered. Even after coming to a funding resolution, there were many rules and regulations that continued to hamper aftercare services, causing more delays and valuable time lost. These required multiple paperwork amendments and new signatures, which generated stress for the families and survivors as well as delays in payments.

Other Actions and Commitments By Theme

The Path Forward: Reclaiming Power and Place

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Federal and Provincial Justice Inquiries

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Indigenous Responses to MMIWG Final Report

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Government Commitments to Preventing Violence Against Indigenous Women

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ONWA: Reconciliation with Indig. Women

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AFN Breathing Life into Calls for Justice Action Plan

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Reclaiming Power and Place. MMIWG Final Report

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