Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett (The Canadian Press)

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

The federal government will not be able to deliver a national action plan to make life safer for Indigenous women and girls next month as promised because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said Tuesday.

The one-year anniversary since an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls issued its 1,200-page final report and 231 “calls for justice” will come in early June. In recent days, Indigenous women’s groups have pleaded with Ottawa for the plan to be fast-tracked because the stress of the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls.

In December, Bennett said the government believed “we’ve got to have something in the window by June.”

But the pandemic has made delivering the plan next month impossible, Bennett said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“We know it’s urgent and people are impatient but I think we also know that, and what we’ve been finding over these last months, it is often the same people on the front lines of COVID-19 who are on the front lines of keeping Indigenous women and girls and their families safe,” Bennett said.

The inquiry delivered its final report June 3, 2019 with a stunning conclusion that decades of persistent and systemic racism and human-rights violations had contributed to the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of Indigenous women and girls and that it constituted a genocide.

The body’s recommendations for action spanned themes of health, justice, security and culture, including addressing overcrowding and food insecurity for women in Indigenous communities, and more funding for women’s shelters. A national action plan was at the top of the list.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time a plan would be developed in collaboration with Indigenous leaders and provincial governments to keep it flexible and responsive to the different issues and needs in different regions.

Bennett said Tuesday there has been a lot completed and at least one jurisdiction, Yukon, is ready to go. But she said some provinces ”have indicated that they are going to need a little more time.”

She would not say when she thinks the plan will be finished because COVID-19 has so many uncertainties.

“Some of it will track with what happens with COVID, depending on a second wave,” she said. “We are committed to getting this done and having a quality plan that will address the issues that the families and survivors have identified.”

Lorraine Whitman, the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said she was appalled the government is blaming COVID-19 for the delay.

“Indigenous women are still dying and disappearing in Canada, families are still being left in the dark about the loss of their loved ones,” she said. ”The time to act is now, not years or even months from now.”

Whitman told a House of Commons committee May 15 that reports from her association’s provincial and territorial partners show the pandemic is taking a terrible toll on Indigenous women, with more reports of domestic violence, elder abuse and child abuse. A survey done by NWAC of 250 Indigenous women found more of them were afraid of domestic violence than they were of the novel coronavirus.

Whitman asked the committee to imagine the terror a woman feels when she is suddenly forced to stay at home with an abusive partner, when she has nowhere else to go and he has nowhere else to “let off steam.”

Whitman said NWAC has offered some tangible things the federal government can do immediately and has had no response. She said NWAC will give Ottawa until June 3 before it shares those publicly, the same day it intends to release a report card on the government’s actions to date.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

MMIWG

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring says the City Langford has lessons to share on how to deal with social issues. (File photo)
Langford could teach North Cowichan ways to deal with social issues: Siebring

Island city has only eight homeless people, according to last count

Potential designs for 85 Station St. were presented last month to the City of Duncan by the Portland-based architecture and planning firm Communitecture. (Courtesy of Communitecture)
City of Duncan considers applying for grant for Station Street project

New provincial program offers grants of up to $1 million

The bus is free to ride on Oct. 24 so voters can get to the polls to cast their ballots in the provincial election. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Free transit on Election Day in Cowichan

all day and on all regular routes

Painters Jim Tulip, Doug Mackenzie and Gary Henslowe were painting the exterior of the Duncan Butcher Shop and Apple Press printing shop, located between the Trans Canada Highway and Whistler Street, on Oct. 8 as part of neighbourhood painting project. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan’s Whistler Street sees a fresh lick of paint in opioid battle

Group wants to help clean up community, one street at a time

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Sails down, masks up for Ron and Sherry Pryde, who completed a 119 day journey that was supposed to be 70 days. (Zoe Ducklow)
Coast Guard towed rudderless sailors to Port Hardy hours before a powerful storm

Rudderless for a month, the couple zigzagged most the way home with “a few donuts and lazy-eights”

Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
‘This is a big outdoor space’: Grand Forks man behind backyard party to fight COVID tickets

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read