Under Natural Law, every human being is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. These include the Right to Life, Culture, Health, Safety, and Justice. Governments have a moral obligation to protect these Rights yet the historical record of governments is one of failure to live up to its responsibility.
This has been the story for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in Canada since Colonialism’s arrival on Turtle Island. Its negative effect on Indigenous women has been especially egregious. Based on a recommendation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the central government in 2016 launched a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The final report was released on June 3 – June is National Indigenous History Month.
The Inquiry’s goal was to gather and examine evidence, report on the systemic causes of violence against MMIWG, shine an unfiltered light on the crisis, and offer recommendations on how to end it. The process spanned two years and consisted of cross-country public hearings and evidence gathering with testimony by nearly 2,500 family members, survivors of violence, experts, and Knowledge Keepers.
The denial of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women’s Right to live under Natural Law began with the denial of the Right to Culture. Foreigners, under the guise of colonialism, stole Indigenous peoples’ land and resources. Targeting for assimilation though forced participation in inhumane programs like residential schools – “A Theatre of Abuse” – Sixties Scoop, and child welfare systems were government-sanctioned programs all.
In testimony, Robert C. said of genocide, “What else can you call it when you attack and diminish a people based upon their colour of their skin, their language, their traditions, remove them from their lands, target their children, break up the family? And that’s the uncomfortable truth that Canada, I believe, is on the cusp of coming to terms with. And it’s going to take a lot of uncomfortable dialogue to get there.”
Canada has denied Indigenous women their Right to Health through forced relocations, denial of food security, forced sterilization, lack of access to mental health services and addictions treatment, and overall interference with existing Indigenous health systems. A Natural Right to Security has been denied by the lack of opportunity in areas such as education, employment, and the failure to provide a basic standard of living.
Justice has been denied Indigenous women through legislation and law enforcement. Métis scholar and activist Howard Adams testified that First Nations “suffered brutality under the Mounties, who frequently paraded through Native settlements in order to intimidate the people and remind the Natives they had to ‘stay in their place.’” He said Mounties were not “ambassadors of goodwill or uniformed men sent to protect” but the “colonizer’s occupational forces” and “oppressors”
The report found that past abuse of Indigenous women by police continues to permeate modern encounters based on a deep sense of suspicion and distrust. Audrey Siegl testified, “Safety and justice and peace are just words to us. Since its inception, we’ve never been safe in ‘Canada.’ The RCMP was created to quash the Indian rebellions. The police were created to protect and serve the colonial state.”
Calls For Justice
The Inquiry suggested 231 specific Calls for Justice directed at media, social influencers, police, health and wellness providers, attorneys and law societies, educators, child welfare and social workers, extractive and developmental industries, correctional service, and all Canadians.
Non-Indigenous Canadians are urged to decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous relations in their local area and then celebrate its history, cultures, pride, and diversity. Acknowledge the land they live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today.
Federal, provincial, and territorial governments are asked to recognize Indigenous self-determination and inherent jurisdiction over child welfare, and let Indigenous communities design and deliver the services.
Police, government, law societies, bar associations, and all who participate in the criminal justice system should be required to undergo mandatory intensive and periodic training in the area of Indigenous cultures and histories.
Police agencies are asked to teach their recruits about the dark history of police oppression and genocide of Indigenous; anti-racism and anti-bias training; and culture and language training. The training must not be pan-Indigenous and instead focus on the land and people being served.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report: MMIWG-FFADA.ca.