After almost three years of gathering thousands of testimonies across Canada, the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report Monday at a ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec.
The report, entitled “Reclaiming Power and Place,” refers to the violence against these women and girls a race-based “Canadian genocide.” It issued 231 calls of justice — recommendations of actions the governments and citizens must take to put an end to the violence.
“This report is about these beautiful Indigenous people and the systemic factors that lead to their losses of dignity, humanity, and, in too many cases, losses of life," Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the inquiry, wrote in its preface. "This report is about deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide."
Indigenous women and girls in Canada are 12 times more likely to be murdered or to go missing than people from any other demographic, according to the report. They are 16 times more likely to be killed or to disappear than white women.
An RCMP report from 2014 found that just under 1,200 Indigenous women were murdered or had gone missing between 1980 and 2012. But many have argued these numbers are inaccurate, and Patty Hajdu, Canada's former minister for the status of women, said in 2016 that the actual number could be as high as 4,000.
“As a nation, we face a crisis: regardless of which number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is cited, the number is too great. The continuing murders, disappearances, and violence prove that this crisis has escalated to a national emergency that calls for timely and effective responses,” Buller said at the ceremony.
Lots of Indigenous families, leaders and advocates here today at the release of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls #MMIWG Canada must be held to account and take concrete action to end this crisis. #genocidepic.twitter.com/o65dNROfKA— Pam Palmater (@Pam_Palmater) June 3, 2019
The report’s many actions are outlined to bring about change to systemic and societal values that have allowed colonial violence to exist.
“We heard stories from so many people who shared with us, the families who had lost loved ones and people who were survivors of violence themselves, so it was often very emotional,” Brian Eyolfson, one of the commissioners for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, told Global Citizen.
Eyolfson said the main themes across the country were consistent: they all spoke of violence rooted in colonialism, racism, and discrimination, citing issues caused by the Indian Act, the relocation of Indigenous people, residential schools, issues around child welfare, and the Sixties Scoop.
“Through their lived experience they know what is needed to help stop the violence in their communities,” he said.
The report’s recommendations call on all levels of government to improve Indigenous rights, culture, health and wellness, security, and justice. The report calls on the government to develop and implement a National Action Plan to address violence against Indigenous women and girls, as well as ensuring that Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people are represented in governance, among many others.
Other recommendations address industries, institutions, media, health care providers, educators, police, Correctional Service Canada, and child welfare workers. The report also implores everyday Canadians to act, too.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally accepted the findings at the ceremony.
“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,” Trudeau said. “The commission has outlined a way forward, and you have my word that my government will turn the inquiry’s call for justice into real, meaningful, Indigenous-led action.”
The prime minister said his government will work with Indigenous partners and ensure all voices and perspectives will be heard — from Indigenous women and girls to families of victims to the LGBTQ and two-spirit community.
“I am hopeful,” Eyolfson said about Trudeau’s promise. “The report makes strong findings and strong recommendations, and I’m hopeful that governments will implement them, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
The report’s release coincides with the start of the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, which is the world’s largest gathering on the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls.
On Sunday, the Indigenous Women’s Pre-Conference took place to discuss advancing the rights and wellness of Indigenous women and girls around the world. It brought out women who have worked with victims in the Indigenous community. They said they had seen positive change, but not enough.