Coordinated and Immediate Action Required to End Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls and those at Risk: AFN National Chief

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

OTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says immediate and sustained action in coordination with First Nations is essential to fully implement the recommendations and Calls to Justice in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry) released in Gatineau this morning.

The National Chief says, “Lives are at stake. We cannot wait any longer for real action and real results to ensure the respect, safety and security of all First Nations at risk, and these efforts must be in coordination with survivors and families. I lift up survivors, family members and all those who shared their experiences. I thank them for their strength and courage in this important truth-telling exercise. We continue to stand with you in your healing journey.”

“The final report of the National Inquiry reaffirms what First Nations and families have been saying for many years – we need immediate, sustained and coordinated action to address the long-standing and systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls and those at risk,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was formally presented to federal government officials today at a closing ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History.  The two volume report includes 11 chapters, four overarching findings and more than 200 recommendations.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be acting right now and AFN is already working in many of the areas identified for action, including First Nations control of child welfare, the revitalization of Indigenous languages and a new fiscal relationship that will help build healthier and safer First Nations,” said National Chief Bellegarde.

The AFN, together with First Nations, families and other Indigenous organizations, has consistently called for immediate action prior to the Inquiry and during the Inquiry process, and has outlined specific areas where immediate action can be taken to address and end violence.

“I support the call for a strength-based approach that recognizes the deep and abiding love and care that we have for our women and girls,” said AFN Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who holds the national portfolio for women’s priorities.  “We must always remember that we are talking about people – mothers, daughters, sisters, our children and family members who are loved. These are not just numbers and statistics. I also urge governments to invest funding in Indigenous women for new and innovative programs and services that will create substantive equality for our women so they are strengthened and can live safe and secure lives.”

“We can take action right now while work is underway toward a coordinated implementation plan on the Inquiry’s recommendations,” said AFN BC Regional Chief Terry Teegee, who leads the justice portfolio at AFN.  “We can move on safe spaces and shelters for First Nations women, girls and LGBTQ2S, safe transportation, increased access to day-care and mental health supports for women affected by gender-based violence and all forms of abuse, and improved law enforcement for human trafficking and appropriate supports for those in and out of the sex trade.”

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls launched in December 2015 with the mandate to look into and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including sexual violence. The National Inquiry concluded its truth gathering process mid-December 2018. The AFN was a party with standing in the National Inquiry and made its final submission in Calgary in November 2018.