THUNDER BAY – James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently concluded his visit to Canada from October 7 – 15th, during which he collected a significant amount of information from Indigenous peoples and Government representatives across the country. The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is urging Canada to take his expert opinion and recommendations seriously.
The UN Rapporteur’s preliminary findings outline that while some positive steps have been made in the recent past towards progress and reconciliation, “daunting challenges still remain and that Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of Indigenous peoples of the country.” Key concerns outlined by Anaya include the well-being gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada, Treaty and Aboriginal claims that remain unresolved, a high level of distrust among Aboriginal peoples towards the government, severe housing inadequacies, high suicide rates among Indigenous youth, the long-standing and devastating affects of Residential schools, substandard education, and the disturbing phenomenon of missing and murdered Aboriginal women
While the federal and provincial governments have taken steps to address various aspects of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women epidemic, it is not enough. “I have heard a consistent call for a national level of inquiry into the extent of the problem and appropriate solutions moving forward with the participation of victims’ families and others deeply affected,” says Anaya in his Statement upon conclusion of the visit to Canada. “I concur that a comprehensive and nation-wide inquiry into the issue could help ensure a coordinated response and the opportunity for the loved ones of victims to be heard, and would demonstrate a responsiveness to the concerns raised by the families and communities affected by this epidemic.
ONWA is hopeful that the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur, specifically his support for a public national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women, will finally solidify the importance of this issue and garner a meaningful response from the federal government. “ONWA, along with many other organizations and political bodies, have been stressing the need for an inquiry into the alarmingly high rates of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada for quite some time,” states Betty Kennedy, ONWA Executive Director. “To have the support of an impartial, UN Special Rapporteur certainly strengthens the validity of the crisis we are in. We urge the Federal government to finally heed the call for an inquiry and let Canada, as a country, begin the process of justice and healing that is so long overdue.”
A full report will be released in the following weeks, and will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. ONWA joins Special Rapporteur James Anaya in his hope “that this report will be of use to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, as well as the Government of Canada, to help find solutions to ongoing challenges that Indigenous poeples in the country face.”