On Friday Canada and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) signed an agreement they say will give Indigenous women greater say in federal decision-making processes that impact Indigenous peoples.
“Today is an important step towards reconciliation in Canada,” NWAC President Francyne Joe said during a signing ceremony in Ottawa.
“After 45 years of NWAC advocating for women of many Indigenous nations, this is the first time Canada is entering into an agreement to ensure fair and equal inclusion of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people in the development and design process of programs, services, policies and laws.”
The parties will “jointly establish” policy priorities that they will “review and discuss on a semi-annual basis through meetings with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Canada, the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada and other key federal Cabinet Ministers,” the accord reads.
The accord’s terms of reference will be co-developed, and “enhanced core-like” funding for NWAC “for a term of three years or until a longer-term multi-year core agreement can be negotiated,” the accord states.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, who signed the agreement on behalf of Canada, said it is “about NWAC’s ability to have the ongoing relationship with the Government of Canada, so they can continue to play the critical role about how to build a better future for Indigenous women, children and all members of the community.”
NWAC was founded in 1974 to represent the interests of First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and children through research and advocacy.
“On this day, Feb. 1, 2019, our critical and unique perspective, priorities and political voices will be heard at decision-making tables,” Joe said Friday, adding the accord means NWAC will have “meaningful participation” in government
“It also means NWAC will be able to bring forward the voices of grassroots of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse peoples.”
Bennett said the accord represents an important step in decolonization.
“The settlers arrived and only spoke to the men. The Indian Act moved women out of their communities and into communities where they were less safe,” she said.
“When we see women in leadership positions we know that that is a measure of how we are doing on this journey of self-determination and decolonization.”
Joe said that “for too long the voices of our matriarchs, our knowledge keepers and our water carriers were omitted. They were silenced, and they were ignored.
“We were left out of conversations directly affecting our families, our communities, our nations. Today this changes,” she added.
“This accord means Indigenous women girls and gender diverse people play an important role in the development of laws, programs and policies affecting them.
“It means we are full and equal participants in all engagement process impacting our communities.
“It means our inherent right to self-government and self-determination is upheld and respected.
“It means Indigenous women of many different nations are included as equal stakeholders and decision-makers in our traditional governance systems as well as Canada’s democratic institutions.”
Bennett said “when women are empowered, their families, communities and all Canada benefits. And this accord means that we’re going to do just that.”