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The Unknown Canadian Genocide


BY: Gabriella Maddalena 



Are you aware Canadians are living in the time of a genocide? The answer to this question is likely no. Indigenous women and girls are being targeted more than any other demographic in this country. Cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) have increased so drastically that the Canadian Government has declared them a genocide. So why has nothing been done? 


Historical Context


The issue of Indigenous women and girls being targets for violence dates back to the historical context of colonialism. This has led us to the racialization and sexualization this demographic faces today. This glorified legacy of colonialism in Canada,  has now led to an acceptance of violence. It is this legacy that has justified the legally sanctioned policies that target Indigenous communities, such as the Indian Act, residential schools, and forced sterilization among many others. These policies could be considered the beginning of systemic racism in this country and have led today’s society to adapt a similar mindset. Due to this glorification that we see in our history classes and through monuments dedicated to the figures responsible for Indigenous mistreatment,  many Canadians today have the belief the very land we stand on was never stolen, only ‘conquered’. Due to a white-washed version of Canadian history, many Canadians today fail to recognize how these policies have impacted Indigenous women and communities all over Canada by preventing their access to community resources and safety nets by severing ties to their communities. The violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada started with the effects of colonialism on the Indigenous communities of the past, and is still present in today’s society. 


Statistics


There are over 1,000 cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada, most of which remain unsolved. A report called Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada, released by Amnesty International, highlighted a lack of statistical analysis, comprehensive reporting, and called for more police accountability. The 2011 Statistics Canada Report estimated that between 1997 and 2007, the rate at which Indigenous females were being targeted was seven times higher than non-Indigenous female demographics in Canada. In 2013, the RCMP called for a report on MMIWG to help with operational planning. The “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview” was released in 2014 and reported that between the years of 1980 to 2012, there were a total of 1,181 Indigenous women and girls — 164 missing and 1,017 female homicide victims. Indigenous women and girls represented 16 percent of female homicides in Canada, while only making up 4 percent of the female population during these years.  The trends show that while homicide declined for non-Indigenous women and girls between 1980 to 2015, the number of Indigenous female homicide victims jumped from 9 percent in 1980 to 24 percent in 2015. A report from Amnesty Internationa entitled “No More Stolen Sisters: The Need for a Comprehensive Response to Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada” highlighted five key issues as reasons for this continued national tragedy of violence against Indigenous women, which include:

  • Disproportionately high numbers of Indigenous women in Canada’s prisons

  • The disruption of Indigenous societies caused by the historical, and ongoing mass removal of Indigenous children from Indigenous communities

  • Inadequate police response to violence against Indigenous women and girls

  • The inequality in the fulfillment of Indigenous women’s social, political, economic, and cultural rights

  • The role of racism and misogyny in continued violence against Indigenous women and girls. 

The number of cases has gone up drastically since these reports, so what is being done about it?


Government Response


Despite an ongoing push from Indigenous communities across the nation and human rights groups, The Canadian Federal Government waited far too long to take action. It wasn’t until 2015 - when Justin Trudeau took office - that the government launched a national inquiry, which began in 2016. This national inquiry was independent from the federal government. The official inquiry began on September 1st, 2016 and was expected to release an interim report by November 2017, with the final report in 2018.  The final report came a year later in 2019. It is a two-volume report that calls for implementing legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that the Indigenous communities are facing. It consists of personal stories from over 2,000 family members, survivors, and experts. It also includes calls for justice directed at governments, institutions, social services, and all of Canada. There have been many critiques on the National Inquiry from many Indigenous communities who claim the inquiry lacks transparency, communication and inclusivity. The Native Women’s Association of Canada stated that the commission failed to keep the families informed of its progress, and the Indigenous communities had to continue to press the commissioners for clarity and communication. The report only brings light to the issue at hand and does very little to actually bring the issue to justice. In fact, most Canadians remain unaware that this inquiry has taken place or has been completed.  The MMIWG genocide is not talked about enough for the nation to understand its severity and what needs to be done. 


A national action plan was announced in 2019 by the Canadian government and was to be implemented by June of 2020. The federal government has recently announced that this action plan was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is asking Indigenous communities to wait for it. Many members of the Indigenous communities and human rights activists alike are now wondering how a pandemic declared in March of 2020 could impact the work done during the months prior to the initial outbreak. What are they waiting for? Many of the recommendations given during the MMIWG Inquiry have been left unfulfilled, even after years of its initial start. It seems that despite recognizing the rate of which Indigenous Women and Girls are being murdered and abducted is so large that Trudeau declared it a genocide, there isn’t enough care to fix it. Canada has waited far too long to take accountability and action for the disproportionate targeting of Indigenous females, and the time to act is now. The Indigenous communities have suffered at the hands of Canada for decades, how much longer do these communities need to wait for justice? 




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