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Report on MMIW sparks conversations on inequality towards Indigenous women

A mural by Maureen Walton depicting a mother teaching her child is painted across a wall in the Indigenous Resource Centre. “For our people we know that women deserve our every last bit of respect for the gifts they can bring.” said Dustin Brant, who is an outreach officer at the Indigenous Resource Centre Photo by Sarah Cooke, QNet News

By Sarah Cooke [1]

BELLEVILLE – The uncomfortable truths laid out by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women [2] cannot be ignored, according to a Loyalist College educator.

“It’s something that can’t go away now,” said Dustin Brant, a Mohawk from Tyendinaga.

“Especially when we think of Truth and Reconciliation, especially when we think of working on the nation to nation relationship. This can’t go away. This has to happen and we have to work together to make sure we stay strong,” said Brant.

The final report of the inquiry was released in Gatineau, Que., on Monday by chief commissioner Marion Buller.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance.

The 1,200-page report made multiple recommendations to all levels of government, police, and the Canadian public to address the problem of violence directed towards Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people. The final report, titled Reclaiming Power and Place [3], makes 231 “calls for justice”, which are recommendations for action.

Brant emphasized the significance of the report.

“People are aware now. The awareness that all the talks have created – that this report has created – it’s all really a good thing to make sure that this doesn’t happen anymore,” said Brant. “That it’s in everybody’s mind that this isn’t how we treat our women.”

Commissioner Michéle Audette states in a preface to the report that statistics show that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. According to Statistics Canada, between 1997 and 2000, homicide rates for Indigenous women were nearly seven times higher than non-Indigenous women.

The report also highlights that the truths shared reinforce the existence of acts of race-based genocide towards Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

The use of the word genocide has sparked debates across the country.

Nikki Auten, who is a professor of Indigenous Studies at Loyalist College thinks that action needs to arise from the talk.

“There are so many layers to it – having the conversations isn’t enough, taking action is what really needs to happen.” said Auten.

She says that action plans can be developed from the conversations and that the onus is on the general population of Canada.

“Because that is really the issue. It’s that colonial perspective and how do we change that? How do we bring those relationships into relationships of equality and relationships of respect.” she asked. “How do we make action plans to get there so when women or young people are reported missing it’s an equal system that they’re being faced with when they approach justice systems.”

Auten emphasized that while it’s a very layered and complex situation it’s important for non-Indigenous people to acknowledge their ancestral role in colonization and learn from that in order to move forward in not perpetuating the same biases and prejudices.

Chief Donald Maracle from the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte offered his condolences, love and support to the families and victims of the tragedies outlined in the final report and said that a lot more resources are required to address poverty.

When asked if the national inquiry would be enough to inspire real action he replied that it should be as Canada likes to profess it’s a caring nation.

“Largely it’s going to have to be a societal change, there’s discrimination at many levels,” he said.

He went on to say that it starts with housing and addiction treatment to address poverty levels both on and off reserve.

“Every Canadian has a basic requirement for health, nutrition, clean drinking water…they treasure these rights and that’s what I wish for my people.” said Maracle.