A year into a national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women, advocates say little has been done and more accountability is needed from the federal government.
“It is with deep disappointment and frustration that I say the lack of accountability is staggering and unacceptable,” said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, during a press conference held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Friday.
The National Family and Survivors Circle (NFSC) made significant contributions to the development of the national action plan, which was released June 3, 2021, on the second anniversary of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ final report.
The inquiry concluded that the violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls amounts to genocide and identified 231 Calls for Justice, including the call for a national action plan to be developed.
‘This genocide will continue’
However, contributors to the plan say little has been done thus far, especially on the calls for justice that relate to setting up accountability mechanisms and better tracking of data.
“It’s a very difficult process to move forward on and hold individuals accountable if they have no mechanisms in place,” said Anderson-Pyrz.
The NFSC said one of its critical recommendations called on governments to establish an oversight body in the form of a National Indigenous Human Rights Ombudsperson and a National Indigenous Human Rights Tribunal before June 3, 2022.
Neither have been established.
“This is a national shame,” said Anderson-Pyrz. “It is also dangerous, each day of inaction in this area leads directly to the tragic loss of human life.”
She listed the names of five Indigenous women across Canada who died by homicide since March: Tytiana Janvier, Chelsea Poorman, Doris Trout, Rebecca Contois, her own niece Tessa Perry, as well as the recent declaration for a coroner’s inquest that the death of Chantel Moore was a homicide.
“Without the political will to create transformative change, this genocide will continue,” said Anderson-Pyrz.
Sylvia Maracle, executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, expressed similar concerns on behalf of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community.
“We’re also waiting for systemic change,” said Maracle.
“We’re waiting for a return to power and place, and that requires a great deal of public education go on so that we can combat the sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia in Canada.”
The national action plan included 23 short-term priorities to start within the next one-to-three years, such as public awareness campaigns, a nationwide emergency number, and a national task force to review and re-investigate unresolved files of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
According to a progress report, over $508.8 million in funding has been announced since 2021 for various initiatives aimed at prevention and to directly support families and survivors. The report said that many plans are in the early stages or have not been started yet.
“Things aren’t moving fast enough, but they are moving forward,” said Marc Miller, minister of Crown–Indigenous relations.
“This isn’t the opportunity today for anyone to be patting themselves on the back or making any excuses.”
Native Women’s Association gives feds a failing grade
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) was also critical of the government’s progress.
It published a score card, giving the government a failing grade for its “minimal actions.”
“Their plan is flawed,” said Lynne Groulx, NWAC’s CEO.
“They have all the experts. They have all the information. They have all the resources at their disposal. Why can’t they put those elements together and just do it?”
The organization did not participate in co-developing the action plan, citing problems with the process, and released its own costed plan to address the inquiry’s call for justice. Groulx said NWAC completed 40 of its own 66 proposed actions.
“If we can do that with our very limited resources … why can’t the big government of Canada move forward with more actions?” she said.