The head of the Native Women’s Association of Canada says she supports a motion from the federal NDP that calls for a national state of emergency to address violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Carol McBride said she’s hoping it results in action and supports for programs including healing lodges for families and women in communities.
“I think that would be a big benefit to them,” McBride told Nation to Nation host Annette Francis.
On May 2, NDP MP Leah Gazan (Winnipeg-Centre) was joined by advocates and other members of Parliament in support of the motion that urged the Liberals to immediately put in place what is called a “Red Dress Alert” similar to an amber alert, and to provide more money for supports and prevention measures to address the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“We are being murdered on the streets, our loved ones are going missing and the government needs to act now,” Gazan told media during a press conference, prior to tabling her motion in the House of Commons.
The motion passed unanimously before heading into what is called in Parliament as a take note debate. The intent is to debate the issue with the hopes the federal government takes note of what is said, leading to a change of policy or immediate action. It’s not binding on the government.
Gazan opened the debate by saying it was a monumental day, having all members of the House recognize the MMIWG2S as a Canada-wide crisis.
“We are seeing constant, unrelenting violence against our women, how many tragedies do we have to endure before appropriate action is taken,” she said.
Members of the NDP spoke about the lack of money that was promised in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Gazan said it’s been three years since the federal government announced a violence prevention strategy to address the crisis. And the money earmarked for that strategy has gone largely unspent. She said out of a fund of $724.1 million, just $37. 1 million, or 5 per cent, has been allocated.
“How much longer do we have to wait for this life-saving money to get out the door. How many lives are going to be lost. How many women are going to disappear without action, without a safe place to go,” said Gazan.
NDP MP, Blake Desjarlais described the MMIWG crisis as a prolonged and continuous genocide.
“It is persistent not only in the forms it has taken, such as violence against women or the results of poverty we are seeing, but it is also nefarious in the way the government operates,” he said. “It is nefarious that it continues to limit the funding necessary to get to the organizations that need it most”
Marc Miller, the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said Budget 2023 reinforced and expanded his government’s commitment to MMIWG.
“It proposes an additional $125 million over six years, followed by $20 million ongoing, to put toward measures for implementing the national action plan. This includes, among other things, $1.6 million over the next two years to support the creation of an Indigenous and human rights ombudsperson.”
But that response didn’t impress Gazan.
“The minister talks about all this money: $1.6 million over six years. He knows very well that this funding is completely inadequate. I will tell members how I know that; it is because we continue to go missing and be murdered,” she said.
The province of Alberta is now in the midst of an election. APTN’s Edmonton reporter Danielle Paradis appeared on Nation to Nation to lend her expertise from covering several provincial elections.
Although its early, Paradis said the parties haven’t come out with their priorities on indigenous issues yet.
“I am hoping we’re going to hear about natural resource extraction for example, sovereignty, sovereignty act, of course came into play earlier in the year and people were very upset about that.”
She said healthcare, funding for addiction treatment centres and policing are a few of the other issues being discussed amongst voters.
The election is scheduled for May 29.