In Canada, as in many parts of the world, Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women and girls, and that is only the violence that is reported. Also, while there are no standards on how and if police track the violence experienced by Indigenous people, Statistic Canada reports homicide rates of Indigenous women were almost seven times higher than those of non-Aboriginal women.
In response to this tragedy of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and the calls to action from Indigenous families, communities and organizations as well as non-governmental and international organizations, the Government of Canada launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls with the support of the governments of every province and territory.
The National Inquiry is a legal process that is wholly independent from federal, provincial and territorial governments, crown corporations and Indigenous governments and organizations. The mandate is to look into and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including the underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional, and historical causes that contribute to this ongoing violence. We can address issues such as sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, bullying and harassment, suicide, and self-harm. This violence is interconnected, and can have equally devastating effects. You can follow our progress through ongoing updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as our current social media campaign aimed at raising public awareness.
Our vision for the National Inquiry is to build a foundation that allows Indigenous women and girls to reclaim their power and place. Because of Indigenous Peoples’ rich diversity, this reclaiming will look different in different places. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples each have their own distinct cultures, languages, and ways of life with distinct political, legal, social, cultural, and economic systems. There can be no one-size-fits-all, pan-Indigenous approach. Solutions must instead be culturally appropriate to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women and girls, their respective communities, and their Nations.
The Truth Gathering Process
The National Inquiry has adopted an Indigenous, decolonizing and community approach to gathering the truth of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. This Truth Gathering Process is divided into three parts:
Part I – Community Hearings
Part II – Institutional Hearings
Part III – Knowledge Keeper and Expert Hearings
More information about the Truth Gathering Process can be found on our website but to date, more than 2,300 truths were shared with the National Inquiry. Additionally, 83 experts, Knowledge-Keepers and officials provided testimony at nine hearings on topics as diverse as human rights, government services, police practices, racism and colonial violence and videos of some amazing experts, like Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Inukshuk Aksalnik and Tanya Talaga providing their statements are available on our website.
Violence towards Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people is a national tragedy in Canada. The Final Report will outline the many findings of the National Inquiry as it consulted with families, survivors, experts, and Knowledge Keepers. However, one finding that stands out is the pervasiveness of violence and racism towards Indigenous women and girls. This fact crosses time, every region of Canada, and is evident in urban and rural communities. Many Indigenous communities believed their experiences to be isolated events, but the National Inquiry has learned how colonial attitudes and racism are pervasive, institutionalized and endemic. They exist in our child welfare system, health services, the justice system, and our police services.
We have gathered the truths and experiences of 1484 family members and survivors and 819 individuals who shared through Artistic Expressions. When we sat with families experiencing profound grief and loss, we struggled to absorb the enormity of their emptiness. These women and girls — mothers, aunties, sisters, nieces — are gone. Their dreams, talents, and abilities will never be realized, and that is a tremendous loss to all of us.
Colonialism and Canadian History
Canada’s history is a history of colonialism. Colonialism is the attempt or actual imposition of policies, laws, mores, economies, cultures or systems and institutions put in place by settler governments to support and continue the occupation of Indigenous territories, the subjugation of Indigenous Nations, and the resulting internalized and externalized thought patterns that support this occupation and subjugation. Colonialism relies on the widespread dehumanization of all Indigenous people. The impact of colonialism and underlying patriarchal values has been devastating to indigenous women and girls, devaluating their place in society and opening the door to violence against them.
On June 3rd, 2019, the Commissioners will release the National Inquiry’s final report publicly at a ceremony in Ottawa, where families and survivors will be front and center. The report will include concrete and actionable recommendations to address the systematic and institutionalized violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people as well as enhance and ensure their safety in their communities and in their lives. Once released, it will be up to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities and Canadians at large to put pressure on governments and the justice system to implement the recommendations.
Their Voices Will Guide Us
Their Voices Will Guide Us is an education initiative of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The intent is to facilitate critical thinking, purposeful reflection, and dialogue around the perceptions and lived realities of Indigenous women and girls, including members of 2SLGBTQQIA communities. This initiative is designed to engage students and teachers in meaningful learning about the important roles of Indigenous women and girls in their families, communities, and nations, highlighting their strength, agency, and traditional responsibilities. This guide will help learners understand how violence violates Indigenous women’s and girls’ inherent, Treaty, Constitutional, and human rights.
Their Voices Will Guide Us offers an opportunity to create a safe, respectful learning environment for confronting hard truths and generating new knowledge through dialogue and art to change the future with and through our students. The National Inquiry’s goal for Their Voices Will Guide Us is to engage students of all ages in generating arts-based messages of resilience, truth, hope, solidarity, and justice. These messages can inspire and motivate Canadians from all walks of life, at all ages, and in all territories to take action in their own lives to generate transformative social change. Student messages will be gathered and curated to form part of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.