On Monday, June 3rd, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report and recommendations in a ceremony at the National Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Algonquin Territory.
The release was the culmination of a three-year process in which the Inquiry heard testimony, submissions and stories from more than 2,000 people including the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, Indigenous knowledge keepers, experts and parties with standing.
The BCGEU was the only union to seek and receive standing from the Inquiry and the only labour organization to make a submission. Thanks to your activism your union was the only voice for Indigenous workers and workers who deliver vital services to Indigenous families and communities that the inquiry heard from.
I was honoured to present the BCGEU submission to the Inquiry in Ottawa in December but decided not to attend this week's ceremony. Instead I watched the ceremony surrounded by some of the activists that made this Inquiry happen at the Feminists Deliver conference in Vancouver. It was a powerful experience of true solidarity and I am grateful that I was part of it.
The inquiry's final report, Reclaiming Power and Place, concluded that the violence experienced historically and currently by Indigenous women and girls in Canada amounts to genocide-a conclusion that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted. In light of that conclusion and based on a thoughtful and thought-provoking framework and foundational principles, Commissioner Marion Buller encouraged all Canadians to find the strength and courage to begin to decolonize the relationships and institutions that shape their families, their communities and their country.
The report contains 231 calls for justice that collectively cover and reimagine practically every facet of the Canada we know-from courts and legislatures; to public services like child welfare, policing and corrections; to the entertainment and resource extraction industries that drive our economy; to the daily lives of "ordinary" Canadians-with the ultimate aim of decolonizing our country in order to eliminate violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
The BCGEU participated in this inquiry because you, our members, demanded action. Our goal as a union has always been to bring the Inquiry's recommendations to life for our members in worksites, in the operations of their union, and in the larger labour movement in B.C. and Canada. To that end we are currently doing an in-depth analysis of the report and the recommendations to find opportunities for concrete action. The BCGEU is committed to decolonization and we will be relying on the ongoing participation of all members as we move forward.
I encourage you to read the final report and reflect on what it means for you. It's a big document, start with the calls for justice for all Canadians and suggested resources for Allyship (pages 85 and 86 of the Executive Summary), then read through the recommendations that relate to your work and the work of your family and friends. As always, I invite you to get involved in all levels of your union from your local to your component and to champion issues of social justice and reconciliation.
It was your vision that guided our participation in this inquiry and while the final report is a major milestone, the real work is just beginning. The BCGEU is part of a movement to create a more just society where all people have access to their inherent human rights-including the rights to justice, security, health and culture identified by the inquiry-and all people are treated with dignity, respect and fairness. In many ways, our focus has not changed: we will continue to walk the path of true reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers, sisters and friends. The final report shines a light on that path for all of us.
To learn more:
Read the Executive Summary, Reclaiming Power and Place.
Read the Full Report, Reclaiming Power and Place.
Watch the Video Message from Stephanie Smith, December 11, 2018
Read the BCGEU submission Naut'sa mawt sqwaluwun: Working together with one mind and one heart,December, 2018
Below are 15 of the 231 recommendations that are most relevant to BCGEU members:
- Establish a national Indigenous and human-rights ombudsperson and a national Indigenous and human-rights tribunal
- Create a national action plan to ensure equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety and health care
- Provide long-term funding for education programs and awareness campaigns related to violence prevention and combating lateral violence-that is, violence committed by one Indigenous person against another
- Prohibit taking children into foster care on the basis of poverty or cultural bias
- Fund Indigenous-led efforts to improve the representation of Indigenous people in popular culture
- Launch health and wellness services aimed at Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people, particularly so that health care is available to vulnerable Indigenous people in their own communities
- Create a guaranteed annual livable income for all Canadians, taking into account "diverse needs, realities and geographic locations"
- Create safe and affordable transit and transportation services in, to and from remote communities, to reduce dependence on risky activities such as hitchhiking
- Revise the Criminal Code to "eliminate definitions of offences that minimize the culpability of the offender"
- Fund policing in Indigenous communities so their services are equitable compared to those in non-Indigenous communities, including modern information technology, major-crime units and crime prevention
- Fund training and education for Indigenous people to thrive in education, health-care, media, policing, law and other fields
- Consider the welfare of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in planning resource-development and extraction projects
- Remove the "maximum security" classification in the federal correctional service, which limits access to rehabilitation and reintegration programs
- Increase Indigenous representation on all Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court
- Develop knowledge and read the final report. Listen to the truths shared, and acknowledge the burden of these human- and Indigenous-rights violations, and how they impact Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people today