By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – After two years, the Canadian Government has finally released an action plan for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Federal document provides an outline for the Government’s plan to address the Inquiry’s 231 calls to justice. It was created in consultation with a large group of partners that include families of victims and survivors, distinct Indigenous groups within the borders of the country, and territorial governments.
While the action plan is a step towards reconciliation, it is a preliminary outline that acknowledges it is only building the foundation for more detailed steps down the road.
The outline commits to provide funding and to enhance existing funding for programs and initiatives focused on the areas of culture, health and wellness, human safety, and security and peace. Unfortunately no dollar amount was given nor was it stated who will be supplying the money. Deciding how much and where it will come from are among the next steps.
The outline explains that the Federal Government will be re-establishing the Law Commission of Canada, which is an independent agency that advises Ottawa on how to modernize its laws. The Feds are also going to support the implementation of “Joyce’s Principle,” a healthcare initiative named after Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous mother who was demeaned and neglected by nurses in a Quebec hospital. Using her phone, Echaquan filmed the racist treatment she received and broadcast it on Facebook, not long before she died in the hospital.
At the time of writing, the Federal Government’s plans are all just promises.
In fact, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has recently announced that they have stopped working on the Government’s action plan because it was “fundamentally flawed” and politically motivated.
The organization alleges that it was denied a seat on key working groups where the big ideas were taking place. NWAC also said that in the meetings they were allowed in, they experienced “lateral violence and hostility.”
They weren’t even getting funding from the Government while other organizations were — which is contradictory to Crown-Indigenous Minister Carolyn Bennett’s claims.
NWAC has released its own action plan which has targeted measures with reporting mechanisms and costs.
NWAC President Lorraine Whitman, said that their plan “puts families, not politics, first.”
“It has been two years since the commissioners issued their 231 calls for justice. Yet … very little has changed,” Whitman said. “We are no safer now than we were two years ago, so we are taking matters into our own hands.”
“We were clearly an afterthought and perhaps an unwelcome intruder in the government’s process.”
Lynne Groulx, chief executive officer of the NWAC, said, “there are no more excuses.”
“How could the government mobilize the kinds of resources they mobilized during the COVID pandemic, but they couldn’t do that for Indigenous people when it was time to do it? I think they are out of time,” said Groulx.
The Canadian Government claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic was the main reason for the delay of the action plan.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett recognized the work of NWAC by saying “All of the work that they have done … we’re very grateful for that.”