The long awaited Round Table on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women happened yesterday. Dialogue was to have begun and some concrete action was to be arrived at. There was hope and anticipation that maybe this time, solutions could be formulated.
I was shocked and dismayed this morning to read Beverly Jacobs post on Facebook that the action plan had been done up before hand, with no input from the families, or anyone really. Just from the people who drafted it and approved it. Beverly was there for the Round Table and had been chosen as one of the four representatives for the families.
This was an action plan that was produced that did not come from the collaborative efforts of those at the Round Table. Rather it was pre-drafted before the meetings even began. Sad that this would happen in this way when there was so much hype about the round table. It seems that ensuring a result was more important than taking into account what was said at the table by the very people that are affected. I am very disillusioned that this was not a joint effort to arrive at immediate actions that were supported by all. Now that would be powerful.
I don’t know why I am surprised that this was the process. The Crown-First Nations gathering did the same thing. At the end of the day, an action plan was arrived at that the Chiefs/Regional Chiefs had never seen or supported. Seems to be an acceptable process for some.
But if you are gathering the families of missing and murdered woman, First Nations and First Nation organizations, provincial and federal governments, what you would expect is a document that is put together collaboratively. That is the best way to approach things.
Or, the second best option would be to draft an action plan that could have be sent out to get the input from the families of Missing and Murdered women months ago and asked for their input. It could have been circulated to all that are concerned and asked for their input. A revised document could have been discussed at the Round Table. What is missing? Who will do what? Who pays? Then there could be real concrete discussions on proposed actions.
I know if I had been part of such a sham I would have been angry. Why ask for these people’s expertise, time and pain if they weren’t to be taken seriously. Every time the families live through what happened to them, is still happening to them, it hurts. They hope that maybe this time they will be heard and that things will change and feeling crushed when it doesn’t happen. Things aren’t changing and the politics remain the same. We are no closer to a National Inquiry then we were before the Round Table.
Some of the families were not even allowed to be observers and forced to attend the "People's Gathering. Some protested outside the meeting hall and tried to get in. Their efforts were resisted by a Riot Squad and not allowed in. Unimaginable. You invite people to Ottawa for a Round Table and then do not let them in. They only get to do a limited few things within the rules set out. My heart goes out to those that really wanted to play an important part in the Round Table and were sidelined-again.
It was a hard time for the families, first on being told only 4 of them could go into the meetings and speak. Knowing you travelled all that distance to be an observer. They should have been told up front what the process was and then they could have decided if they really wanted to be part of a process where they had no voice both at the Round Table and to formulating the Plan and outcomes.
It is too bad that these things overshadowed the Round Table. I watched some of it and listened to the stories of the families that touched my heart and mind. How can such injustices continue in this country we call Canada? Why are our women treated with such disrespect when they are the victims of the crime? Why does the police not look harder for missing women, or produce the evidence needed to convince the judge throw the offender in jail for a long time like he deserves and not just a short slap on the hand kind of sentence. As you listen to these women, you become more committed to becoming outspoken, to put more action into raising the profile of these issues. How could you not?
That is why Harper didn’t want to be there. He doesn’t want to be convinced to do more. He doesn’t want to hear the cries of the families and the fears of indigenous women that they might be next. He likes to live in his elitist, privileged world where he can tell himself that he has put money forward for some programming and passed the Real Property Matrimonial Act that will stop violence against women. He doesn’t live in the real world and he certainly doesn’t know anything about the world that indigenous people live in.
Valcourt and Lietch had to have their own press conference. They said they didn’t want to take away from the larger press conference where everybody was. They wanted their own audience with no detractors. They only illustrated how far apart they are from everyone else. That they have no desire to build relationship with First Nations and work on this issue collectively. Would have been nice if no press bothered to show up at their press conference, why bother when they clearly want their own controlled messaging where they were away from the piercing eyes of indigenous women.
We have a long ways to go on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Good that we had the Round Table. Starting the Dialogue. Next time, we need to get it right. Using women chairs, involving the families voices fully and respecting what they want and need. Hear all the voices that can contribute. Empower women. Empower the families. The next Round Table needs to be a working table where the federal, provincial and First Nations governments take on commitments including financial costs. Precious lives depend on it.