APTN National News
OTTAWA — The federal government’s strategy to deal with the high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women is not supported by nearly 60 studies that have examined the issue, according to a new report.
The Harper government has rejected calls for a national inquiry into the causes behind the nearly 1,200 Indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing since 1980, arguing the issue has been studied enough and now is the time for “action.” Justice Canada has even released a list of 40 reports to support that position.
A report released Thursday shows that those 40 studies do not “support the government’s stance.” The report, by the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women (LSC), reviewed a total of 58 studies dating back to 1994.
The LSC report said the federal government wrongly believes that violence against Indigenous women is not a sociological problem, but rather one as a “series of crimes.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he personally doesn’t believe the issue to be a sociological one.
“Despite diverse authors, the reports reviewed show strong consensus about the root causes of this violence; it is a sociological issue,” said the report. “The recommendations that are repeated time and again in so many of the reports highlight exactly why and inquiry is needed: to ascertain the extent to which these recommendations have been implemented and to identify and address obstacles to implementation.”
The report said that many of the studies “stress that the economic and social marginalization of Indigenous women makes them more susceptible to violence and less able to escape violent circumstances.”
The LSC report found that many of the studies found that a toxic mix of family breakdowns, overcrowded housing, food insecurity, lack of access to education and chronic underfunding for services targeting Indigenous women increased their exposure and vulnerability to violence.
Added to this is the continuing racism and sexism in Canada, the legacies of colonialism, the shadow of residential schools and discriminatory legislation like the Indian Act.
“And yet, police and health care professionals fail to adequately prioritize the health and safety of Indigenous women and a lack of culturally sensitive programs prevent the services that already exist from addressing challenges specific to Indigenous women’s experiences,” said the report.
Executive Summary of LSC report
The report was released a day before a planned roundtable on murdered and missing Indigenous women that will include federal and provincial premiers and cabinet ministers along with Indigenous leaders and the families of victims.
The roundtable aims to hammer out a strategy to stem the disproportionate level of violence faced by Indigenous women.
LSC includes a number of First Nation, universities and human rights organizations including Amnesty International, the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, Dalhousie University, University of Saskatchewan, Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, among others.