Ontario to release response to missing, murdered Indigenous women inquiry

This article was written by Kristy Kirkup and was published in the Globe & Mail on May 27, 2021.

The Ontario government is laying out its response to calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, including extending the mandate of the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council beyond March, 2022.

The tragedy of violence toward Indigenous people is completely unacceptable and must be met with solutions to “uproot the causes,” said Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues.

“We listened carefully to the survivors, families and loved ones who participated in the national inquiry,” she said.

“We also collaborated closely with Indigenous partners, including members of the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council, to ensure their voices guided Ontario’s action plan on the critical issues impacting their communities.”

The province is prioritizing 118 initiatives, which are organized under different categories, called pathways in the plan. They include an emphasis on security, culture, health, justice, responsibility and accountability, and addressing systemic anti-Indigenous racism and Indigenous gender-based analysis.

The national inquiry, which examined the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, contained a finding of genocide in its final report of June, 2019. It released 231 calls for justice directed at public services and multiple levels of government. The calls included standardized response times to reports of missing Indigenous persons and of women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people) experiencing violence.

The federal Liberal government said at the time that it would respond with a national action plan within a year but it has not yet done so, citing delays related to the pandemic. Ottawa established the national inquiry in 2016 to investigate hundreds of cases of Indigenous women and girls who are disproportionately affected by violence.

Ontario, in releasing its own plan, points to statistics showing that Indigenous women in Canada are estimated to be three times more likely to experience violence than other women and six times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women.

The plan will be unveiled by Ms. Dunlop at a virtual ceremony on Thursday, with members of the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council as well as Indigenous leaders and representatives of Indigenous organizations.

The extension of the mandate of the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council past March, 2022, will ensure Indigenous voices lead priorities, the strategy says. The group was first established in June, 2020, with a goal of providing culturally relevant advice to the government.

Cora McGuire-Cyrette, a cochair of the advisory council, said that the Ontario strategy is “the beginning as we need to now deconstruct the systems that contribute to this crisis and reconstruct Indigenous women’s leadership and Indigenous women’s safety to make an impact across generations.”

Her fellow co-chair, Sandra Montour, said that she hoped through the plan that the “voices of our missing and murdered and their families be forever heard to promote the safety and well-being of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ families” for generations to come.

“It’s been such a long painful journey, and while we are not done yet, at least we are now being heard,” she said.

It’s been such a long painful journey, and while we are not done yet, at least we are now being heard. SANDRA MONTOUR CO-CHAIR, INDIGENOUS WOMEN’S ADVISORY COUNCIL

Author: Ray Nakano

Ray is a retired, third generation Japanese Canadian born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario along with his 4 younger sisters. He resides in Toronto where he worked for the Ontario Government for 28 years. Ray currently practises in 2 Buddhist traditions: Jodo Shinshu and that of Thich Nhat Hanh. Ray is passionate about climate action and very concerned about our Climate Crisis. He has been actively involved in the ClimateFast group (https://climatefast.ca) for the past 3 years. He works to bring awareness of our Climate Crisis to others. He has created the myclimatechange.home.blog website, for tracking climate-related news articles, reports, and organizations. He is always looking for opportunities through the work of ClimateFast to reach out to communities, politicians, and governments to communicate about our Climate Crisis. He is married and has 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren. He says: “Our world is in dire straits. Doing nothing is not an option. We must do everything we can to create a liveable future for our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations.”

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