On November 1, 2017 the commissioners for the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls released their interim report, Our Women and Girls are Sacred. As an organization with standing in the Inquiry, the BCGEU has carefully reviewed the 118-page report which clearly demonstrates the enormous scope of the Inquiry.
The report includes some very startling statistics – Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than any other group of women in Canada, and 16 times more likely than Caucasian women. Intimate partner violence rates are also higher with 52 per cent of those reporting fearing for their lives.
The report also asserts that providing and adequately resourcing early intervention programs and supports within Canada's justice system, child welfare systems, hospitals, and prison systems – as well as tackling systemic discrimination – is crucial to ending violence against Indigenous women and girls, and to help heal the wounds of colonization.
Despite the breadth of this report, it is concerning that there is very little discussion on the perspectives of Indigenous LGBTQ, non-binary and Two-Spirited people. Further, media attention around the report's release has been limited and has focused mainly on the recommendation that a police task force be created immediately.
There is much criticism as well from family members, Aboriginal leaders and organizations asking that the Inquiry be restarted. It is understandable that there would be criticism but it is also important for there to be solidarity for those that are participating and telling their stories.
In September, BCGEU Executive Vice-President Kari Michaels travelled to Smithers to join the Tears for Justice anniversary walk and had the opportunity to attend an Inquiry hearing. "It was incredibly important to me that I was able to attend one of the hearings as a witness to the truth-telling and healing process for the families who shared their stories of the devastating impact this had on their lives," said Michaels. "The process of reconciliation and decolonization requires us (non-indigenous people and specifically white people) to hear hard truths, to share the pain that has been felt by so many in our communities, and to move forward with a deeper understanding and relationship – that means showing up and listening. If you have the chance to attend it is absolutely necessary to go to these hearings."
Themes that have arisen from hearings and meetings held so far – including racism, addictions, child and family services, poverty, family violence, lack of trauma supports, gangs and human trafficking – are all themes our members have identified in BCGEU reports such as Collective Wisdom: Challenges and Opportunities in B.C. Women's Services, as well as in Closing the Circle: a case for reinvesting in Aboriginal child, youth and family services in British Columbia.
BCGEU members throughout the province have front-line experience, knowledge and expertise on the issue of violence against Indigenous women and girls. This is why it is so important for the union to support and contribute to this Inquiry so we as Canadians can put an end to the violence, and ensure that no more sisters are lost.
The union expects to submit its report to the Inquiry in Spring 2018.
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