Key takeaways from the final MMIWG report
Jonathan Forani, with files from The Canadian Press
Published Monday, June 3, 2019 7:08PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 4, 2019 7:47AM EDT
After the release of the final report by the national inquiry investigating missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, chief commissioner Marion Buller implored all Canadians to read the report in its entirety.
The 1,200-page report outlines what the commission described as an intergenerational Canadian genocide, revealing “persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses” as the cause of the “staggering rates of violence.”
Here are some of the commission’s key takeaways. You can read the full report online.
Genocide quickly became the most talked about word from the report, which leaked on Friday ahead of its official release Monday. The commission included a 46-page supplementary report titled “A Legal Analysis of Genocide” to support its position that thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada constitutes a genocide. The report goes further to say that “the Canadian genocide” includes all Indigenous Peoples, but particularly targets women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people. “Settler colonialist structures enabled this genocide,” the report states, adding that the genocide is intergenerational, “whereby the progeny of survivors also endure the sufferings caused by mass violence which they did not directly experience.”
Although he had stopped short of using the term “genocide,” including when an audience member asked him to say it during a speech right after the report’s release, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later used the word in Vancouver at a gender equality conference on Monday evening.
“Earlier this morning, the national inquiry formally presented their final report, in which they found that the tragic violence that Indigenous women and girls have experienced amounts to genocide,” he said.
Trudeau also vowed to conduct a thorough review of the report and develop a “national action plan” to address violence against Indigenous girls, women and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
The commission noted that this report is not the first time Canada’s or America’s colonial history has been categorized as such, referring to several scholarly works over recent decades such as “The Genocide Machine in Canada” and “American Holocaust.”
Power and place
The report is titled “Reclaiming Power and Place” to emphasize the important role that women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people play in various systems of Indigenous laws, which should be considered “Canadian law” for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, the report says. “It is not Indigenous law,” said one person in their inquiry testimony. Women are teachers, leaders, healers, providers and protectors in Indigenous law, and the report says these inherent laws should “serve as a foundation for a decolonizing strategy” going forward, so that Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people can “reclaim power and place.”
Right to culture
The commission identified four “significant historical and ongoing rights violations” that have affected the Inuit, First Nations, and Métis Peoples. The first is the right to access, participate in and enjoy culture. Colonization altered Indigenous people’s relationships to their culture, which for many communities involves passing on cultural traditions. “These cultural losses and familial disruptions also contribute to the social and economic marginalization of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people,” the report reads.
Right to health
Health and violence are pointedly linked in the report, which includes testimony of the health impacts associated with physical violence, sexual assault, and emotional abuse. “Isolation, addiction, self-harm, and suicide are all common health-related challenges that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people confront in the aftermath of violence, or in the aftermath of violently losing a loved one,” the report found. “These factors all increase the risk of further violence.” While Canada “often receives praise internationally” for its health care system, the report found that the country is failing its Indigenous people.
Right to security
The report defines security in social and economic terms and found that the marginalization of many Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people threatens their security and contributes to the targeting of this group. “An unwillingness on the part of institutions to address these issues maintains a status quo that ensures that the crisis of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people continues,” the report reads.
Right to justice
Though justice is a fundamental legal principle in Canada, Indigenous people face barriers to accessing it, the report found. When Indigenous families grow concerned for a loved one who may be missing or threatened with violence, they may be forced to rely on institutions that “have historically ignored and continue to ignore their concerns,” the commission wrote. “More than that, they are forced to reach out to institutions that are directly at the heart of significant pain, division, cultural destruction, and trauma experienced in their family.”
Challenges of inquiry
The inquiry acknowledged that it was a success when measured by sheer number of participants who came forward. The direct testimony of nearly 1,500 people was heard from May 2017 to April 2018, including 468 family members and survivors. Another 800 people gave alternative submissions, such as written statements. But the inquiry laments in the report that it was hampered by government restrictions, such as a denied request to extend the inquiry mandate by two years in 2018. Inquiry members also noted a number of unfulfilled recommendations from the inquiry’s Interim Report in 2017, which suggested exploring the possibility of reopening of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which was opened in 1998 but lost its funding in 2014, and creating a “national police task force” to review MMIWG cases.
Over 200 ‘calls for justice’
The findings include 231 recommendations for change, or “calls for justice,” including a number that address social issues Indigenous women face such as access to housing, food and remote and rural transit options, and funding for women’s shelters. Other recommendations included creating an ombudsperson and tribunal for Indigenous and human rights, and funding for education and awareness programs related to preventing violence.