The leader of the federal NDP says the federal government is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for delaying the release of a plan to address the concerns coming from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“This is the same government that denied recognizing it’s a genocide, the same government that delayed the United Nations declaration legislation and the same government that is still taking indigenous kids to court,” said Jagmeet Singh during a virtual Question Period.
“Will this government commit to core funding for indigenous services to help women and girls and ensure that the calls to justice are implemented without delay?”
Trudeau said that the government’s efforts went into handling the problems raised by the pandemic.
“We will continue to work with those partners but people will understand that many of those partners are very focused right now on helping frontline workers, not on establishing the report,” Trudeau said in response. “We will continue to work with them on the report but the COVID-19 situation has made that more difficult.”
APTN News first reported that the federal government would miss the one year anniversary of the release of the 231 calls to justice on May 15 when Marion Buller, commissioner of the inquiry said she hadn’t heard anything from Canada on a plan.
“I’ve had people reach out to me saying, ‘Have you heard anything, has there been any consultation?’” Buller told APTN at the time.
“There really isn’t much to talk about because they haven’t done much.”
Buller and others close to the inquiry admit they’re disappointed with what appears to be a lack of action on their 231 calls to justice and it’s not clear how much of the plan has been developed.
At the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Ottawa last December Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett promised the action plan would be ready for the June 3 anniversary, but now blames the pandemic for the delay.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) said it’s “appalled” by the federal government’s lack of a plan to address the issues outlined in the report and a promise from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the report wouldn’t be “placed on a shelf to collect dust.”
NWAC accuses the government of holding “no consultation with people who matter,” and chastises Bennett in particular for letting groups and families know through the media that there would be a delay.
“Rather than a national action plan, Indigenous women have been given a lack-of- action plan,” said Lorraine Whitman in a release sent out Wednesday. “Indigenous women are still dying and disappearing in Canada, families are still being left in the dark about the loss of their loved ones,” she said. “The time to act is now, not years or even months from now.”
Whitman said NWAC is offering assistance to the government to put the plan together.
“This is a government that came to power saying no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” Whitman said in the statement. “We hope that principle has not been abandoned.
“We hope the Indigenous women and girls of Canada have not been abandoned.“
It’s not clear when the government will have an action plan finished and released.
At the same meeting where Bennett promised the action plan by June 3, federal Justice Minister David Lametti made a commitment to table legislation to address the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
”Our Government committed to introduce co-developed legislation to implement the Declaration by the end of 2020. Our commitment has not changed,” said Rachel Rappaport, press secretary to David Lametti in an email to APTN.
“We will work closely with Indigenous partners, provinces and territories, and others on how to advance this important work and develop the path forward for when Parliament resumes regular sittings.”