IWFA witnesses appeal for a nationwide Toll free number for victims of violence


By Maike Eikelmann

APTN National News

The First Nations Chief of police made a plea for a toll free number for women who are victims of violence to the special parliamentary committee looking into the issue of violence against Indigenous women.

John W. Syrette made the plea Thursday at the committee’s weekly meeting.

The data is alarming. According to Statistics Canada the average assaults against Aboriginal women are seven times higher than the national average.

And information collected by the Native Women’s Association of Canada shows that more than 600 aboriginal women have either disappeared or have been murdered in the past several decades.

Under pressure from NWAC and the Assembly of First Nations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper struck the committee to listen to recommendations from witnesses that deal with the problem in their everyday life.

But so far, the Conservative dominated committee has resisted calls from witnesses to call for a national public inquiry.

On Thursday committee members heard from Syrette who told them that often there is no officer available for women that want to address the police in an Aboriginal community when they were victims of violence. “This creates a sense of no law, no security and no safety.” Said Syrette.

Syrette told the members that a simple toll-free number for all women that were victims of violence would help. “However, many women don’t call us after the first time. The estimation is that some women have 30 incidents of violence before they come to us.”  said the President.

Moreover he said that especially in northern Canada there are still aboriginal communities where violence against women is accepted. “There is still a dramatic reality in the north” said Constable John C Domm who also testified.

Domm added that the Association wants to change this kind of thinking and build a stronger relationship to the indigenous people in each community and to other associations that fight against violence. The “I am a kind man” program, for instance, encourages men to a positive behavior and explains that violence is unusual and unaccepted.

“People having jobs and a strong economy in their community supports a kind behavior and as a result there are less incidents of violence.” Said Domm.

Furthermore the two officers told the committee that building more shelters in the north, would be a significant help for the women.

NDP MP Niki Ashton wants to move on with her motion of a national action plan as recommended by James Anaya. The two witnesses support the idea of the UN.

Afterwards, Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash asked for the number one priority of the two witnesses.

“We are completely underfunded.” answered Syrette. ”We would need more funding so that we can allocate at least one responsible officer in each community.”

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