Friday, February 27, 2015 is the day that the National Round table on missing and murdered women will occur. It is one positive action that will continue the dialogue in a high profile way and push for on the ground solutions that will help reduce and at some point, eradicate indigenous women going missing or being murdered. This is about the right to life.
This is just optics, but I do find it very strange that there are two men that are co-chairing the round table on Missing and Murdered Women: National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Premier Bob McLeod of the Northwest Territories. Both are respected leaders that should be participants in the discussions and not be limited by the role of chair. This roundtable is about women and women should be front and centre in this dialogue including chairing. Even one woman co chair would have sufficed. This is an issue that involves all people, and men and women alike need to be involved, but it doesn’t seem right that there are no women co chairing something this important. Are we only perpetuating the lack of value placed on indigenous women?
There are going to be many people with different interests at the table to address a multifaceted issue.
There will be continued calls for a National inquiry and Minister Bernard Valcourt will be there to speak against that.
There are many layers of governments that have to be included in this dialogue. These include First Nations, local, provincial and the federal governments. There will be issues of jurisdiction and who pays and the kinds of fights that go on as in Jordan’s Principle. Kudos to Ontario, Manitoba, BC, Yukon and NWT for attending something this significant. Shame on those provinces that can’t find the time to contribute to a very important conversation.
Families of Murdered and Missing Indigenous women will be present as well. Their voices are so important as they are the ones who have suffered and understand what has been lacking in the system, in support for them, in how they are treated. They can tell stories of what efforts they are making to find their cherished family members.
Ministries of Transportation should be at the table, provincial, federal and local to provide solutions on affordable and easy access to all modes of transportation, as this contributes to why women disappear. Ministries should be defining what transportation systems are needed, costs, when it can happen and set out the strategy in addressing this problem.
Murdered and Missing women have to be looked at from indigenous women who live on the reserve. This is at the root of the problem. How do we provide quality housing, day care, jobs, support services, cultural programs, etc. More importantly, to have First Nation communities that have zero tolerance for violence and put in place programs for anti violence and finds ways to address drugs and alcohol on the reserve. This is a huge area to address and the costs of bringing First Nations reserves up to standard with outside communities is a big price tag item that should not be shied away from but a plan put in place on how to address that in a multi year fashion.
Just as important, Indigenous women living in urban areas also need to have the support services they need, affordable and safe housing, access to day care, education and training, safe homes, the list goes on and on.
The bigger issues to be addressed are in relation to systemic barriers that were created by colonial regimes that do nothing to eliminate the racism that is ever present across this country.
Systemic barriers can be found in the justice system, in the courts, in the police forces, laws, policies and programs. How do you change attitudes to value indigenous women to ensure action is taken to find missing women and murderers are found.
Racism has to be addressed by a body that is comprised of indigenous people and others with the sole aim of confronting racism head on and starting to deal with its eradication in the education system, justice system, governments, and in all walks of society. Racism plays a clear role in why indigenous women go missing and are murdered.
There needs to be a national strategy to stop indigenous women from going missing or being murdered. Many studies have been done that produced tons of recommendations. These need to be compiled, added to where there are gaps, and then divided into responsibilities for First Nations, local, provincial and federal governments. This strategy should lay out who is doing what and who is paying for the initiative.
There needs to be a national body that can implement the national strategy, coordinate efforts, ensure follow up is taking place on actions, hold regular national dialogues on what is working and what is not working and what is left to be done. Share best practices on what has worked. There needs to be an education and communication component of this body that will ensure Canadians are well informed on this issue and can take their own action. This body should have powers to have groups, governments, agencies come to them to present what they are doing and compel them to act if they are not doing so.
There are so many other areas to explore on prevention programs, education and training for all indigenous women, support services for families of missing and murdered women. And there is only one day for now to begin to address these complex issues.
For all of you who want to be at the National Roundtable, lending your support, your ideas, and your solutions, you must find ways to do so in your spheres of influence. The National body that could be put in place would have ways to solicit input and add to their database actions to be taken.
The National Round Table on Missing and Murdered women is a good beginning to a national dialogue. It is up to every participant there to make sure more round tables happen but more importantly that concrete actions are arrived at that can be implemented immediately. Even if it is only a few things, it can be considered progress. Talk is okay, but action and results is what is needed.
Only when we start to chip away at this humongous issue and ensure that indigenous women remain in their homes where they are safe and are a positive force in rebuilding indigenous nations and families will Canada and indigenous peoples flourish as Nations.
This issue is not going away, and the prominence of this issue increases with every February 14 march, with every indigenous women that is found murdered or has gone missing. To all Canadians, it is past time we tackled this massive subject in a big way that embraces the value of indigenous women and all human life. Power and clear thinking to those participating in the Round table!