OTTAWA, TORONTO and KAMLOOPS, BC, Nov. 25, 2016 /CNW/ – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) today recognizes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, as designated by the United Nations in 1999. AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, together with the Chair of the AFN Women’s Council Denise Stonefish and AFN Regional Chief for British Columbia Shane Gottfriedson are urging men and women from all walks of life to unite in the global effort to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in all its forms.
“On this day, we urge First Nations, all Canadians and all people around the world to make a personal commit to ending violence, and to support our push for more supports for First Nations women, girls and families,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is important, but there are actions we can take right now to create safe and secure communities.”
The tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada has been a focus of national and international attention. The RCMP cites more than 1,180 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada between 1980 and 2012, but Indigenous organizations and the federal Minister of the Status of Women put the number as much higher, closer to 4,000.
AFN Women’s Council Chair Denise Stonefish said: “Beyond the scars left on our sisters, mothers, daughters and grandmothers, the cycle of violence against our life givers damages all of us. In order to ensure safe and sustainable communities, it is imperative that we show Indigenous women and girls the respect and dignity they deserve.”
Indigenous women in Canada are killed at 6 times the rate of the national average. On-reserve shelters for women and children fleeing violence are severely underfunded. There are less than 70 shelters on reserves in Canada.
“Not only is violence against women a violation of human rights, it violates our traditional way of life as First Nations peoples,” said AFN Regional Chief for British Columbia, Shane Gottfriedson, who oversees the portfolios for Justice and Action on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. “The Creator taught us to hold our women in the highest regard. We must live up to these teachings. Violence against Indigenous women is unacceptable.”
Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. The United Nations defines violence against women as: “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.