Issue #1: Violence Against Women, Girls, 2-Spirit, Non-Binary, and Gender Fluid Indigenous Individuals

Indigenous women and girls are going missing and murdered at a disproportionate rate. In 2015, Indigenous women were six times as likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women and thousands of women and girls - have been murdered or are missing across the country. The loss of these women affects the dynamics of our communities, as many of our nations are traditionally matrilineal.

This is an effect of intergenerational trauma, stemming from genocide, colonization, residential schools, the 60’s scoop, as well as other events directly affecting Indigenous women throughout history. This epidemic of Indigenous women and girls going missing and being murdered causes Indigenous women and girls to feel unsafe in not only urban environments, but their own communities as well.

DEFINITION

Two-Spirit

Refers to an Indigenous person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, it is used to describe sexual, gender, and/or spiritual identity.

 

DEFINITION

Non-Binary

A catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine. Genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression. 

 

Call to Action #41

We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Indigenous organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Indigenous women and girls. The inquiry’s mandate would include:

  • Investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
  • Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools.

UNDRIP Article 22

  • Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of Indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration.
  • States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination

What is being done now?

  • The Federal Government launched Inquiry into the MMIWG and girls in September 2016

Background & Context

The legacy of colonialism and violence against Indigenous peoples has caused this issue to grow and become the issue we are faced with today. Indigenous people were always viewed and continue to be viewed as second-class citizens. If a white, non-Indigenous little girl goes missing, it is breaking news and all of society drops what they are doing to help find this girl. If an Indigenous girl goes missing, she is lucky if her disappearance even makes it into a tweet.

The effects of authority figures not viewing Indigenous people, especially Indigenous women as important and valuable members of society, allowed for crimes and violence against Indigenous women and girls to go unchecked and to happen on a massive scale.

For a long time in Canadian society, due to racist perceptions, Indigenous people were viewed as a problem and thus any issues brought to local authorities or governments went unnoticed. That is how the number of Indigenous women and girls who are missing and murdered has reached such a number, due to a lack of concern until recently.

Sexist legislation in Canada has contributed to the problem of MMIWG

  • Until 1985, the Indian Act denied ‘Indian status’ to any Native woman who married a non-Native man—forcing many women to leave their communities
  • The “double mother clause” of the Indian Act denied the status of “illegitimate” children: children whose mother has status, but whose fathers do not
  • Removal or denial of status afforded by the Indian Act represented more than a denial of “Indian rights,” but an exclusion from one’s cultural identity and community and can even be considered “statutory banishment”
    • Banishment can additionally take the form of denied political rights to band membership, voting in council elections and participation in referenda related to community and band decisions
  • McIvor Decisions granted status to many of those affected by the lasting effects of gender discrimination in the Indian Act
    • This decision was made by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia in the matter of McIvor v. Canada in 2009
  • Government of Canada has introduced the proposed amendments to the Indian Act to provide an entitlement to registration of the Indian Act to a grandchild of a woman:
    • Who lost status due to marrying a non-Indian man; and
    • Whose child born of that marriage parented the grandchild with a non-Indian after September 4, 1951
    • Any sibling of the grandchild would also be granted status

The entry of this issue to mainstream Canadian politics is new. It wasn’t until the 2015 federal election that it became an important part of political party platforms. Media recognition/reception of this long standing issue has also only been recent.

“Numerous studies suggest that media coverage on the issue has been negligible in comparison to the actual number of homicide and missing cases—reinforcing societal perceptions of Indigenous marginality. It appears that mainstream Canadian news outlets only began extensively covering cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women after 2011—despite the existence of cases dating back to the 1950s.

Key Stakeholders

Who is affected?

  • MMIWG is something that should and quite frankly does affect the lives of every Canadian - however it affects Indigenous communities much more severely and frequently
  • The people most affected are: Indigenous women, Indigenous girls, two-spirit, Indigenous members of the LGBTTQ+ community, and the families of the MMIWG

Who is making change?

  • Chief and Council
  • Prime Minister
  • Cabinet Ministers
  • Political Parties: New Democratic Party, Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Party
  • AFN – Perry Bellegarde; ITK – Natan Obed; MNC – Clement Chartier
  • Legislative Committees
  • National Inquiry into MMIWG
  • Elders
  • Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Party Platforms & Positions

  • Despite the issue of violence against Indigenous girls and women being longstanding, the issue only became politicized in the 2015 national election when two of the major political parties promised to act immediately on the issue in their party platforms.
  • New Democratic Party: plan to call a national inquiry into the murders and disappearances of 1,200 Indigenous women within the party’s first 100 days of office
  • Liberal Party: immediately launched a national public inquiry into MMIWG in Canada

Resources

CBC has an up-to-date report on the status of the hundreds of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls cases

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