Editorial: No excuse for delay on MMIWG recommendations

Graphic Carl Bindman

Saturday, Feb. 14, was Montreal’s 11th annual Vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans, and 2Spirit Relatives, a commemorative event honouring the lives of the hundreds of women, girls, and gender-diverse people who have disappeared or been murdered over the past years.

The event took place almost two years after the National Inquiry’s Final Report affirmed that decades of systemic racism and the continuous violation of Indigenous rights are at the root of the startling violence committed against Indigenous women. 

While Indigenous people make up only five per cent of Canada’s total female population, 23 per cent of all women and girls murdered in Canada between 2014 and 2018 were Indigenous. 

Indigenous women have long been the target of violence, but the pandemic has only amplified it. According to an survey from the Native Women’s Association of Canada, more Indigenous women and gender-diverse people than usual experienced violence during the pandemic. In the early months, nearly one out of five who answered the survey said they had faced some form of violence. Respondents were more concerned about violence against women than they were COVID-19.

Yet, once again, Indigenous communities are still waiting for concrete action—this despite 231 calls for justice that came out of the report.

On June 3, 2020, one year after the release of the report, the Native Women's Association of Canada gave the government a "resounding fail" in the four main categories of recommendations: health, security, culture, and justice. 

To make matters worse, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced around the same time that Ottawa would postpone the release of the national action plan due to the pandemic.

Michele Audette, one of the commissioners who worked on the National Inquiry, recently decried a lack of transparency from the government on its glacial progress.

The government’s acknowledgement of its role in the perpetuation of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people is a woefully incomplete gesture. The inquiry was painfully overdue, and there is no excuse for further delay. 

The need for systemic change should not be less a priority during the pandemic. It only intensifies the need for action.