Posts By: Thomas Fitzgerald

National Inquiry Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report: Justice Has Been Denied to Indigenous Women

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.

Findings

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.

‘The System Is Broken’ Say Ontario First Nations Firefighters Of Fire Protection In Indigenous Communities

By Thomas Fitzgerald

Indigenous Fire-Related Deaths ‘Frustrating and Heartbreaking’

Matthew Miller is president of the Ontario Native Firefighters Society and fire chief for the Six Nations of the Grand River. After an early morning fire at Big Trout Lake killed five people, four of them children under the age of 13, Miller said the fact that Indigenous people keep dying in house fires “angers him” and he’s calling out for fundamental change.

“First Nations fire protection in Ontario and right across Canada, the system is broken,” said Miller. “The system requires complete overall reform; that’s the biggest thing that needs to occur.” Miller’s sentiment is backed by a 2010 federal report that found that First Nations residents are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than the rest of the Canadian population.

Community Chief Donny Morris cited a lack of adequate firefighting equipment and hydrants without sufficient water pressure as factors hampering his crew’s effort to extinguish the May 2 structure fire. The Big Trout Lake fire is not an isolated incident. Numerous Northern Ontario First Nation people have lost their life in a home inferno, including two children and one baby who were among the nine dead from a 2016 house fire in Pikangikum.

Miller says though federal data confirms a higher than average death rate for Indigenous deaths from a house fire, the level of fire protection in a given community, as portrayed by federal statistics, often is not accurate and is at odds with his organization’s fire assessments.

“We would have a list of the First Nation and what they were listed as in the federal database – whether or not they have fire protection – and Big Trout Lake was typical of many of the First Nations we went to…they were listed as having fire protection but when we arrived in the community, they did not have fire protection,” said Miller. “By that I mean…they may have received a fire truck in the past, but unfortunately, an organized fire service was unable to be established.”

Miller says Indigenous communities lack fire protection regulations and legislation, unlike municipalities, which are well governed by specialized risk assessments. “When you treat every First Nation exactly the same way, with a formula, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Every First Nation is unique and they have their own issues,” explained Miller. “A municipality knows their risk because they have a community risk assessment done, they have the data to backup the service level they require for their protection of their community, but none of that exists for First Nations across Canada.”

Miller said First Nation communities located near a large population center generally have adequate protection but the more remote the community, the more likely their fire protection is substandard thus presenting significant risk for loss of life in a fire. “When you’re in a highly populated area…you pretty much have access to every vendor that you would need to do servicing on equipment or access to equipment, or even for training capabilities,” said Miller. “When you get into a remote, fly-in community, the cost alone to have someone come and service your vehicle is exponentially increased.”