National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls “Where We Are At”

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and Girls

“Where We Are At”

On December 8, 2015, the Government of Canada announced the launch of an inquiry to seek recommendations on concrete actions to address and prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

The Mandate of the Commissioners:

  1. The commissioners are required to examine and report on the systemic causes behind the violence that Indigenous women and girls experience, and their greater vulnerability to violence, by looking for patterns and underlying factors that explain why higher levels of violence occur. The commissioners have been mandated to examine the underlying historical, social, economic, institutional and cultural factors that contribute to the violence.
  2. The commission will examine practices, policies and institutions such as policing, child welfare, coroners and other government policies/ practices or social/economic conditions.
  3. The commissioners, as part of their mandate, will examine and report on institutional policies and practices that have been put in place as a response to violence, including those that have been effective in reducing violence and increasing the safety of Indigenous women and girls.

We know at Battered Women’s Support Services from extensive experience that over 1,700 recommendations for action have been previously made, and yet only a handful have been put into practice ; Indigenous women and girls in Canada are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence. Although Indigenous women make up 4 per cent of Canada’s female population, 16 per cent of all women murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012 were Indigenous. While homicide rates for non-Indigenous women in Canada are declining, the homicide rate for Indigenous women has remained unchanged. Underlying causes, such as socioeconomic factors like poverty and homelessness as well as historical factors like racism, sexism and the legacy of Colonial practices and the impacts and intergenerational impacts of the residential school system are other reasons Indigenous women and girls experience disproportionate rates of violence. To summarize “Canada has a war against our women”

A message from the National Inquiry:

“Our women and girls (including heterosexual, Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered,  queer, and those with disabilities or special needs) are sacred. We would like to recognize every single family member and loved one of the missing or murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people in Canada. We want to express our deepest sympathies for your loss and we are grateful for every story that you will choose to share with us in the search for truth.”


About Battered Women Support Services Involvement:

Battered Women Support Services has been standing in solidarity with Indigenous women across Turtle Island in calling for a National Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada since before British Columbia’s Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry (MWCI). On top of running a crisis line and offering legal, advocacy and counselling services, Battered Womens Support Services is actively involved in a coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls formulated out of the failure of both group and family participation in the MWCI. Our efforts working in western Canada and northwest British Columbia through an initiative called Women’s Leadership and Training brought together Indigenous women to organize local responses to violence toward We are an active long-time member of the February 14th Women’s Memorial March committee to honour Indigenous women who have lost their lives to violence in downtown eastside Vancouver.


The Recommendations Battered Women Support Services Made to the Ministers last year about whose voice must be included:

The following groups must have an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the inquiry process:

  • The families, adopted families and families of the heart and community members of Indigenous women and girls who have experienced violence must be able to participate in the inquiry to share their experiences of the broad-reaching impacts of violence as well as how the police and justice system responded to their experiences.
  • Indigenous women and girls who have experienced and/or are currently experiencing violence: Indigenous women must be central participants in the inquiry process, as well as organizations that represent the interests of Indigenous women, people and organizations that work directly with them and those that advocate on their behalf.
  • Women’s-led and women serving organizations, service providers, outreach and support workers, and advocates whose expertise and service mandates in the issues facing murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls must be able to both provide support to and represent women and girls directly affected by the issues.
  • Indigenous communities and Indigenous organizations must be fully included in the inquiry given that they are integrally connected to the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and have critical and unique experiences that draw upon their intimate first-hand knowledge of the very same racism, sexism and colonialism that the inquiry will be examining.
  • Experts in socio-economic marginalization and systemic discrimination based on race and gender must participate in the inquiry process so that the inquiry can take advantage of existing expertise on these issues.


Battered Women Support Services is honored to say we will be applying for standing within the National Inquiry into missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. And would like to encourage and support family members, loved ones, and survivors to reach out and identify themselves to the commission.


How to contact the Commission:

Please email the National Inquiry at

Phone: 1-844-348-4119

Include your name, contact information, and location. A member of the team will contact you.

Your testimony is wanted and needed!


Battered Women Support Services is dedicated and committed to finding ways of providing support to you if you choose to participate in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls. In addition, we are committed to finding ways to foster, strengthen, support, and encourage Indigenous women who are stepping up and leading in their home communities to provide these essential services and support while walking alongside family members, and survivors through the National Inquiry process and along their healing journey after the Inquiry. If you would prefer to participate with our support in contacting the Commission, please contact our crisis line at 604-687-1867, complete an intake and ask for an appointment with a woman from our Indigenous Women’s Program team.

NEWS RELEASE: Coalition Responds to Launch of National Inquiry

coalition responds national inquiry

Coalition Honours Families and Advocates as Canada Launches National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C.- December 10, 2015) Earlier this week, the Canadian Government announced the launch of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, beginning with pre-inquiry consultation. The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls honours families and advocates who fought tirelessly for the national inquiry, and looks forward to participating in the pre-inquiry consultation and the inquiry itself.

The Coalition invites the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Patricia Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women to meet with us as part of the pre-inquiry consultation to be undertaken in British Columbia. Coalition members would also like to invite the ministers to the north to meet with the families and organizations there. The Coalition membership includes representation from families, survivors, Indigenous organizations, front-line service organizations, feminist and women’s organizations, legal advocacy sector, faith-based groups, and provincial organizations. Our breadth of representation and our experience with the Oppal Commission of Inquiry make the Coalition well-positioned to help inform this first stage of the inquiry.

For decades, Indigenous women and supporting organizations called for an inquiry into the disappearances of the many marginalized women from BC and we particularly recognize the hard work and commitment of the February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee. For twenty-six years, the February 14th Women’s Memorial March has walked to protest the forces of colonization, misogyny, poverty, racism and to celebrate survival, resistance, struggle and solidarity to make women’s resistance visible. We also recognize the hard work of the Indigenous women and communities in Northern BC who have been instrumental in bringing forward the National Inquiry since the Highway of Tears Symposium in 2006.

The Coalition is encouraged that the Government of Canada will begin immediately engaging with survivors, family members and loved ones of victims, women’s groups, as well as National Indigenous, provincial, and territorial representatives, as well as frontline service providers to seek their views on the design and scope of the inquiry. We have provided preliminary recommendations for a sufficiently thorough pre-inquiry consultation process, and advised that the BC Missing Women Commission of Inquiry led by Wally Oppal cannot be used as a model for any aspect of a national inquiry, given its exclusion of key voices, narrow mandate that failed to address root causes, and only partially implemented recommendations.

Learning from BC’s mistakes in the Oppal inquiry, we are asking that family members and organizations with relevant knowledge of the issues be appropriately resourced by Canada to allow for full participation in the process. We also ask that the inquiry mandate meaningfully address root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and that Canada put in place resources and mechanisms to ensure that recommendations coming out of the national inquiry will be acted on in a comprehensive way.

The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls initially came together in response to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia overseen by Commissioner Wally Oppal. Unfortunately the groups who formed the Coalition were shut out of the inquiry; however, the Coalition continues to meet regularly to pursue justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and has grown in number and strength.

Media Inquiries:

Amnesty International Canada, Craig Benjamin, (613) 744-7667, ext. 235
Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, (604) 808-0507
BC Assembly of First Nations, Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson, (250) 318-8527
BC Civil Liberties Association, Josh Paterson, (778) 829-8973
Butterflies in Spirit, Lorelei Williams, (778) 709-6498
Canadian Federation of Students- BC, Simka Marshall,
Carrier Sekani Family Services, Mary Teegee, (250) 612-8710
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Tribal Chief Terry Teegee, (250) 640-3256
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Alice Kendall, (604) 681-8480
Ending Violence Association of BC, Christina Entrekin Coad, (604) 633-2506, ext. 13
February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee, Fay Blaney, (778) 714-0161, Mona Woodward, (778) 714-6448
First Nations Summit, Colin Braker, (604) 328-4094
First United Church, Genesa Greening, (604) 681-8365
Neskonlith Indian Band, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, (250) 319-7383
PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society, Laura Dilley, (604) 872-7651
PHS Community Services Society
Pivot Legal Society, Kevin Hollett, (778) 848-3420
Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Shelagh Day, (604) 872-0750
RainCity Housing, Amelia Ridgway, (604) 662-7023
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, (250) 490-5314
Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society, Lillian Howard, (604) 253-9575
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Keira Smith-Tague, (604) 872-8212
Union Gospel Mission, Derek Weiss, (604) 253-3323
West Coast LEAF, Kendra Milne, (604) 684-8772
WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Mebrat Beyene, (604) 669-9474
Beverley Jacobs, Jacobs Law, (778) 877-7402
Jenny Kwan, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East
Melanie Mark, BC NDP Candidate Vancouver- Mount Pleasant, contact Nathan Allan, (604) 338-2967

Download the Media Release in PDF format here.

International Human Rights Day

International Human Rights Day

Resisting the Backlash Against Women’s Human Rights

by Ela Esra Gunad

December 10th is International Human Rights Day, a day to bring attention to the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that states each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights which belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. It was sixty-six years ago that this milestone document in the history of human rights, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was adopted.

Where are we as a global community at today in terms of the rights of women?

Every day, all over the world, women and girls continue to face violence and abuse in their homes, schools, workplaces, online, and on the streets. Globally one in three women has experienced abuse or subjected to gender-based violence in their lives.  Here in Canada, every six days a woman is killed by her intimate partner. Women are facing this violence simply because they are women. There are currently 1,181 missing and murdered  Indigenous women and girls throughout Canada due to the historical and present day systemic and social oppressive forces.

Throughout history and still today, there has been an ongoing battle on women’s bodies during times of conflict and warIn Rwanda, between 100,000 and 250,000 women were raped during the three months of Rwandan Genocide in 1994. According to the UN agencies, more than 60,000 women were raped during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), more than 40,000 in Liberia (1989-2003), up to 60,000 in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998. And, the history repeats itself today from Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq to Syria. Even in the absence of conflict or war, being a woman in these regions is being on continual alert of being harmed or killed. It cannot be ignored that during waves of militarization threaten women’s lives all the more.  Women have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, physically abused, harassed, and tortured in ways you may not even want to imagine.

Living free from violence is a human right, yet millions of women and girls face this violence both in times of peace and in war, at the hands of the state, in the home, and in the community. A vast number of women experience forced migration and have to leave their homelands in order to escape gendered systemic violence including gender oppression, gender persecution, political persecution, femicide, war, economic violence, land theft, and the impacts of colonization and globalization. We know through our support and advocacy work at Battered Women’s Support Services, migrant women have always faced structural barriers and there are many inequalities that migrant women face within Canada’s economic, social, legal, and political systems. It is crucial to understand that human rights are linked to each other and these inequalities often deny the basic rights of migrant women and their families. Freedom of movement and residence within any country is a human right, yet migrant women’s lives continue to be threatened by unsafe alternatives that force them to flee their countries, and once they make it into Canada the immigration process makes them even more vulnerable to further violence by the state, by employers, and within their relationships.


Violence is one of the most common causes of homelessness for women and children. Our work on homelessness and violence against women shows that women leave their homes because of physical and/or sexual violence. On any given day in Canada, over 8,200 women and children are living in emergency shelters and transition houses to escape violent partners. Every woman and her children are entitled to safe, affordable, and adequate housing, yet many women face homelessness and/or further violence as a result of that. BWSS works very hard to get women into social housing and we know the demand supersedes the available resources.  One women’s shelter reported turning away eight to ten women per day at both of the shelters it operates. At BWSS we know many women with children will do almost anything to avoid sleeping on the streets out of fear of losing their children. With no place to go and not wanting to lose their children, many women stay in the abusive relationship.

This reality will not change until we each own our role in ending violence and do what is in our power to advocate and act ( activism ) to end gender-based violence. Women around the globe are rising against the pandemic of gender based violence, standing in their power, mobilizing and organizing to end all forms of violence against women and girls. From Indigenous women warriors’ who took to social media with #IAmNotNext campaign to women survivors who are standing in their power and coming forward with #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft, and #WhyIChooseNowtoTellMyStory hashtags; from women of the Arab Spring who carried their voices far and wide on the winds of revolution to women in Nigeria who started #BringBackOurGirls campaign to demand the return of hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian girls.

As it has been said, ending violence against women and girls remains one of the most crucial social issue to be obtained, since it weakens all other efforts towards a future just society. To come to grips with today’s most prevalent human rights violations in world, we have to work together towards a world in which women are safe and free everywhere from their very own intimate environments to the wider world at all times.

In the past 35 years, BWSS has been working on this frontline to end violence against women and making a positive change in the lives of girls, women, families, and communities.

On this International Human Rights Day, we ask you to take an effective action to stop violence against women. We need you to create a future free from violence for all.

Use your power today to end violence against women by:


Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:

International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women

Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence

The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes

16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment 

Decolonizing and Healing Through Ceremonies

The Power of Support Groups at BWSS

Volunteering on BWSS Crisis and Intake Line

Wildflower Women of Turtle Island Drum Group

A Space for Every Woman to Grow

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


Up For Debate – Questions for the Candidates

Up For Debate

Questions for the Candidates


Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) has joined Up For Debate, an alliance of over 150 women’s organizations and their allies from across Canada. We are united in raising awareness about women’s rights in the lead up to the 2015 federal election. Up For Debate calls on all political parties to commit to a federal leaders’ debate on issues identified by women, the first in 30 years, and to make meaningful commitments to change women’s lives for the better, at home and abroad by:

  • Ending violence against women
  • Ending women’s economic inequality
  • Supporting women’s leadership and organizations

Battered Women’s Support Services has prepared this document to help shape conversations we will want to have as we approach the Federal Election 2015. This is a living document and will be amended to apply learning.

Violence Against Women, Women’s Homelessness and Housing

Battered Women’s Support Services works to end violence against women and girls.

Violence against women is one of the most pressing social issues and costs over $6 billion annually for Canada. Violence against women is also the leading cause of women’s homelessness and precarious housing in Canada. In 2014, male violence and abuse of women caused over 200,000 women and their children to flee their homes into emergency shelters/transition houses. The lack of safe, affordable housing is one of the reasons why women and their children are forced to stay with unsafe and abusive partners.  Women need access to safe and affordable housing. No woman should be homeless and living on the street.

Q: Will your party develop and implement an effective national strategy to end violence against women, in consultation with women’s and Indigenous anti-violence organizations?

Q: Will your party develop a national housing strategy with emergency, second stage and safe, affordable permanent housing for women?

Q: What measures would your party implement to policies that address the roots of women’s homelessness, precarious housing and street homelessness?

Women’s Access to Justice

BWSS recently held Women Seeking Justice, a conference that convened a former judge, researchers, academics, lawyers, legal advocates, and feminist thinkers to illuminate pressing legal issues for women in law practice and policy including Indigenous, international, immigration, refugee, criminal, family, and poverty. The conference highlighted key problems for women accessing justice under Canadian law, specifically:


  • The inability for women to receive legal aid for legal representation in their family law cases
  • The problems for women navigating multiple proceedings (such as criminal law, family law, child protection law, and immigration law) as a dangerous disconnect impacting women’s safety in male violence situations
  • The condemnation of Canada’s response to violence against Indigenous girls and women by the international community specifically missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women
  • Increases in women being arrested and charged for allegedly perpetrating domestic violence against their male partners when there is a long and documented history of male partner’s violence against woman
  • The call for Canada cities to adopt a sanctuary city model for undocumented migrant and immigrants in Canada
  • Redressing the Conditional Permanent Residence requirements under immigration law in recognizing the dangers of making immigration status conditional on living with your spouse poses for women dealing with male violence

Q: Will your party substantially increase legal aid funds dedicated for family law?

Q: What will your party do to address the safety problems for women dealing with male violence forced to navigate multiple proceedings?

Q: Will your party support the call for a national inquiry examining the epidemic of violence against Indigenous girls and women agreeing with the urging of thousands of family members, individuals, women’s groups, communities, First Nations, municipal, provincial and territorial governments, the international community, and human rights organizations?

Q: Will your party support the call for Canadian cities to adopt a sanctuary city model for undocumented immigrants in Canada?

Q: Will your party redress repressive refugee law reforms?

Q: Will your party redress the conditional permanent residence requirements which entrench immigrant women in abusive relationships?

Child Care

BWSS advocates for a national strategy for comprehensive early learning and child care services that are high quality, accessible, publicly managed, not‐for‐profit and an integral part of Canadian social structure.

Q: Does your party support a federal government role in leading development of a national strategy for child care services?

Q: Will your party commit significant dedicated funding to provinces and territories to build universal not-for-profit child care systems?

Q: Will your party increase dedicated federal transfers for child care?

Economic Security for Women

BWSS report on our research Economic Abuse and Violence Against Women highlighted that economic abuse is defined as controlling a woman’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources. Economic abuse is as common in abusive relationships as physical, sexual and emotional abuse. 100% of the research participants reported experiencing emotional abuse by their partners, 75% had been physically assaulted, 80% had experienced sexual abuse by their partners and 100% had experienced economic abuse. Women also reported that their economic dependency, is also reinforced by societal and systemic gender discrimination that limits or denies women the opportunities to have access to and participate in the labour market and earn equal wages as male counterparts. And this society and systemic gender discrimination was layered with racial discrimination for Indigenous women Immigrant women and Women of Colour who combined formed 40% of the research participants.

Women make up a disproportionate share of low-income Canadians and are particularly vulnerable in any economic crisis. Women account for 72% of part-time employees and approximately two-thirds of Canadians working for minimum wage.  Canada has the highest levels of working mothers (working outside the home) in our recorded history, 36% of mother-led families still have incomes below the poverty line and 43% of children living in a low-income family live with a single, female parent. The median income for single moms is more than a third lower than for single dads.

Q: Does your political party have a policy to ensure Canadians have a guaranteed living income?

Q: What measures would your party implement to improve women’s economic status?

Q: Is your party committed to adopting a national poverty reduction strategy with targets, timelines and a gender lens?

Q: Will your party implement Gender Budget Analysis to ensure taxation and other general government policies do not disproportionately disadvantage women?

Q: How do you propose ending family poverty in Canada? Will you work towards increasing the Child Tax Benefit?

Canada Falling Behind On Gender Equality

Canada is our 23rd-place standing on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index that has caught the attention of the international community.

Battered Women’s Support Services is a non-partisan women’s organization working to end violence against women and girls while urging men to own their role in ending violence against girls and women.

Battered Women’s Support Services

Twitter @EndingViolence




YWCA Canada,

Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights,,

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Election 2011: Questions for Candidates,

Make Poverty History, Guide for Organizing an All-Candidates Meeting: A Job Interview for “MP to Make Poverty History”,


You can download Up For Debate – Questions for the Candidates here.


You could do something to End Violence Against Women




Collective Outrage. Unified Voice. Power of Communities.

From St. John’s to Victoria, hundreds across Canada gathered and marched on Thursday, April 2nd calling for justice for Cindy Gladue and all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

In over 22 places communities expressed collective outrage over the acquittal of Bradley Barton, who walked free of both murder and manslaughter convictions on March 18th after being tried by a jury in Edmonton.

Community organizing for Cindy Gladue across the country and collective outrage influenced Edmonton with its people power.  Crown prosecutors in Alberta filed an appeal late Wednesday afternoon, asserting that Justice Robert Graesser erred in his understanding of motive, manslaughter, admissible evidence, and consent.

We will continue watching Edmonton.

We want justice for Cindy Glaude!

We want justice for all missing and murdered Indigenous Women!


April 2, 2015 across Canada ~ Collective outrage. The Unified Voice. Power of Communities.

















 Algonquin Territory, Ottawa







Edmonton_ @borisproulx



 Calgary/Treaty 7/Blackfoot Confederacy






Victoria, on Lkwungen




St. John’s, NL

 St. John’s, NL1

St. John’s, NL5

St. John’s, NL3




 Kenora/Treaty 3















Lac La Biche, Alberta

Lethbridge, Alberta1

Saskatoon Art-In

Saskatoon Art-In4

Saskatoon Art-In

St. Paul




Ending violence is not just on the agenda, it IS the agenda ~ #MMIW

The following blog will highlight how little action has been undertaken to date despite 58 reports and 700 recommendations tabled so far.

A Canadian National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women was held on February 27, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario with 12 representatives from British Columbia, in attendance.

The Canadian Federal Government has consistently rejected the call for a national inquiry examining the epidemic of violence against Indigenous girls and women, despite the urging from thousands of family members, individuals, women’s groups, communities, First Nations, municipal, provincial and territorial governments, the international community, and human rights organizations.

The Federal Government’s rejection has been largely positioned as a “choice” between taking “action” or a national inquiry.

The consistent levels of indifference combined with a lack of political will to address violence against women, in general and specifically, with respect to Indigenous girls and women is jarring for those of us on the front-line of the war on women including victims, survivors, activist, and advocates.

Violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada

Review of reports and recommendations – Executive Summary
Prepared by Pippa Feinstein and Megan Pearce
February 26, 2015

Indigenous women and girls in Canada are assaulted, abducted and murdered at appallingly high rates. Against the backdrop of this tragic reality, Indigenous leaders, national Indigenous organizations, provincial and territorial governments, non-government organizations, international human rights bodies and individual activists, have repeatedly called for a national inquiry to examine the disproportionately high rates of violence against Indigenous women. The federal government has rejected these calls, justifying its position on the basis that: (a) violence against Indigenous women and girls is not a sociological phenomenon, but should viewed instead as a series of crimes, and (b) that the problem of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada has already been adequately studied.

We have reviewed 58 studies, reports and inquiries which have examined the causes of this violence and made hundreds of recommendations about how best to respond. These reports have been prepared by a diverse set of
authors, including national Indigenous organizations, such as the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women’s Association of Canada; international organizations such as Amnesty International; Canadian parliamentary committees and provincial and federal Ministries; independent academics; and grassroots organizations. Most recently, the Inter-American Commission issued a report on murders and disappearances of Indigenous women in British Columbia, which was requested by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action. The IACHR report describes the severity of this issue and recommends specific action.

The existing literature does not support the government’s stance. First, despite diverse authors, the reports reviewed show strong consensus about the root causes of this violence; it is a sociological issue. Second, the recommendations that are repeated time and again in so many of the reports highlight exactly why an inquiry is needed: to ascertain the extent to which these recommendations have been implemented, and to identify and address obstacles to implementation. Such an inquiry could also provide the basis for future informed and coordinated inter-jurisdictional action on this issue, which is based on credible evidence.

Our research revealed that there is consistent consensus with respect to the causes of violence against
Indigenous women, and that this issue is a sociological one.

There is considerable agreement between the reports about the root causes of violence against Indigenous women. Many reports stress that the economic and social marginalization of Indigenous women makes them more susceptible to violence and less able to escape violent circumstances.

Contributing to this marginalization is a set of complex and overlapping factors. In particular, a lack of access to education and employment opportunities results in high levels of poverty amongst Indigenous women. In addition, according to some reports, Indigenous women experience disproportionately high rates of food insecurity, overcrowded housing, and homelessness. High instances of family breakdown, and the intervention of the child welfare system further contribute to the vulnerabilities of Indigenous women and girls. Finally, chronic underfunding of services to help Indigenous women cope with these circumstances also contributes to their susceptibility to violence and limited ability to leave violent situations.

According to many of the reports reviewed, the poverty and discrimination experienced by Indigenous women is a product of continuing racism and sexism in Canada that excludes and devalues Indigenous women. The historical context of this violence, and in particular the legacies of colonialism, the residential school system, and discriminatory Canadian laws such as the Indian Act, continue to adversely impact the wellbeing of Indigenous women and girls. And yet, police and health care professionals fail to adequately prioritize the health and safety of Indigenous women, and a lack of culturally sensitive programs prevent the services that already exist from addressing challenges specific to Indigenous women’s experiences. These issues are compounded by an unresponsive justice system that is often unable to accommodate the needs of those most at risk.

Despite the federal government’s contrary assertions, the reports reviewed make plain: violence against Indigenous women in Canada is a sociological phenomenon.

Our research has also revealed that there is considerable agreement in the literature with respect to the
recommendations for future action to prevent and end violence against Indigenous women in Canada.

The 58 reports we reviewed contained over 700 recommendations. Most of these recommendations concerned preventative action, highlighting the need to address the causes of violence against Indigenous women in holistic
ways. Within the large number of recommendations, sixteen overarching ‘themes’ were identified. Below is a
brief summary of each theme and an assessment of the extent to which the associated recommendations have
been implemented:

1. 4 reports published between 2012 and 2015 recommend the establishment of a national commission of inquiry into this issue. Another report prepared in 2012 contains detailed recommendations for how to ensure any future inquiry will be fair and inclusive. The federal government refuses to implement this recommendation.

2. 12 reports, published between 2002 and 2015, recommend the establishment of a national action plan, and call for governments and service providers to ensure that action is coordinated. The federal government’s current ‘action plan’ falls far short of providing the preventative measures or coordination of inter-agency or inter-jurisdictional efforts necessary for a proper response. Moreover, funding for the ‘action plan’ pales next to the funding cut to Indigenous organizations, many of which offered services that addressed the root causes for the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women.

3. 4 reports, published between 2004 and 2012, recommend greater public acknowledgement of the extent of violence against Indigenous women, and priority afforded to the issue. The only action on this recommendation has occurred at a provincial level. In particular, the government of British Columbia has signed a memorandum of understanding with First Nations and Métis leaders that explicitly acknowledged the extent of this issue and declares it a priority.

4. 28 reports, published between 1996 and 2015, stress the importance of properly resourced, Indigenous-specific programs to address both the causes of violence against Indigenous women and to provide support and services to women and girls who have experienced violence, and their families. Our research has shown that the federal government has dramatically cut funding to Indigenous-led organizations providing services to Indigenous communities, and Indigenous women in particular. These organizations delivered preventative programs, aimed at alleviating poverty and minimizing the social and economic marginalization of Indigenous women, as well as services designed to protect, heal and support women and girls who had experienced violence. By cutting funding to these organizations, the federal government has failed to implement this recommendation.

5. 12 reports, published between 1996 and 2015, stress the importance of greater involvement of Indigenous peoples in program development and delivery. At least on the federal level, the involvement of Indigenous peoples in the development and delivery of programs directly affecting them has steadily decreased. Federal budget cuts have effectively subsumed Indigenous-specific programs into mainstream government services, decreasing Indigenous people’s involvement in program development and delivery.

6. 14 reports, published between 1994 and 2015, recommended improved data gathering and publication. Over the past few years, the federal government has defunded some of the most significant Indigenous-specific data gathering initiatives, and prevented the continued gathering and publication of information about violence against Indigenous women. Further, inter-jurisdictional police information sharing initiatives still require urgent attention.

7. 15 reports, published between 2005 and 2014, recommend further awareness raising and public education efforts. It is unclear what education or awareness raising initiatives are currently supported financially by the federal government. There is some action at a provincial level, with the most promising programs being designed and delivered by independent or non-government groups.

8. 12 reports, published between 2002 and 2013, recommend improvements to transport services and physical access to accommodation, including safe housing and shelters. Our research has shown that there has been little improvement in this area and that inadequate shelter and transportation continue to put economically marginalized Indigenous women at risk.

9. 5 reports, published between 2002 and 2012, recommend additional support for community-based first response and search and rescue. Our research was not able to identify any positive developments or changes in this area.

10. 4 reports, published between 2004 and 2012, recommend greater protection of Indigenous women working in the sex industry. New legislation on this topic has recently been passed by the federal government, and has received mixed reactions. However, there is very little to suggest the implementation of recommendations aimed at preventing Indigenous women from having to engage in survival sex work, or protecting those who are forced to do this work.

11. 21 reports, published between 2001 and 2015, recommend measures to improve the relationships between police and Indigenous communities. Despite some limited initiatives in recent years, our research failed to find evidence that such developments have significantly improved the relationships between police departments and Indigenous communities.

12. 15 reports, published between 2004 and 2015, recommend improvements to investigations into and prosecutions over missing and murdered Indigenous women. A small number of initiatives have been developed at a provincial level, in particular in British Columbia. None of these initiatives is specific to Indigenous women. Moreover, our research suggests the programs that are in place have not been effective.

13. 6 reports, published between 2001 and 2015, concern the importance of support for community based and restorative justice. Some provinces have programs that include community justice initiatives, such as sentencing circles. However, recent federal legislation involving mandatory minimum sentences, may frustrate the growth of these initiatives.

14. 5 reports, between 1996 and 2013, have recommended that Canada endorse international declarations and ratify international conventions concerned with promoting the safety of women, and Indigenous peoples’ rights. The federal government has not implemented these recommendations, refusing to endorse or ratify applicable international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

15. 5 reports, published between 1996 and 2009, recommend several specific areas of domestic law reform. While some limited reforms have been made, significant discrimination still exists in the Canadian legal system and further law reform is required.

16. 4 reports, published between 2006 and 2012, recommend a compensation and/or healing fund for the victims of this violence and their families. This has not been implemented by the federal government.

The recommendations summarized above cover a range of responses – from preventative actions to address the systemic discrimination and economic marginalization of Indigenous women, through to recommendations aimed at improving the way Indigenous women are treated by the police and in the justice system. The recommendations illustrate the importance of addressing the outcomes and the root causes of violence. In fact, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has recently confirmed, in a detailed and ground-breaking report, that Canada is legally obliged, in accordance with established principles of international law, to prevent violence against Indigenous women by addressing the “institutional and structural inequalities confront[ing] indigenous women in Canada”, including by measures to reduce poverty, guarantee proper housing and improve education and employment opportunities.1 According to the Inter-American Commission, the Canadian government’s legal obligation also extends to ensuring that, when violence occurs, it is promptly investigated, punished and that reparations are made to the victims.

It is clear from our research that despite wide agreement about the causes of violence against Indigenous women, and the response required, very few recommendations have been implemented by federal or provincial governments. Moreover, determining which recommendations have been implemented at either federal or provincial levels is made considerably difficult by the very limited information available publicly. When information is available publicly, it rarely, if ever, extends to an assessment of how well various initiatives or programs are performing. Finally, our research shows that there is little in the way of formal government commitments to implement existing these recommendations, and that inter-agency and or inter-jurisdictional coordination of existing implementation efforts is sorely lacking.

In light of these challenges, a properly mandated and well-run national commission of inquiry offers an efficient and effective information gathering tool, with robust powers to compel the production of information and witnesses, and to conduct coordinated and comprehensive research with the support of experts where necessary. An inquiry can therefore consolidate and update existing knowledge about the causes of violence against Indigenous women, comprehensively evaluate the adequacy of existing initiatives and programs, and help Canadians and policy-makers understand why there has been so much resistance to action to address this issue. This would help to ensure that any recommendations it makes are based on a solid understanding of what is being done already. Finally, a national public inquiry can be an important way to make the Canadian governments accountable for failing to undertake coordinated and informed action in response to violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Our goal with this research is to help inform existing and future advocacy initiatives related to the establishment of a national commission of inquiry into violence against Indigenous women and girls.

A. This review was conducted on behalf of the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women (LSC). We were originally briefed to complete three main tasks:

1) To review 40 reports that examine issue of violence against Aboriginal women, and to list the recommendations made therein (if any). This list of 40 reports was provided by the Department of Justice to justify the federal government’s stance that there is no need for a national public inquiry into this issue,

2) To find additional reports the federal government may be relying on to support their refusal to hold a national public inquiry. (The LSC had been notified that the federal government is relying on the existence of at least 49 reports, to support their position.), and

3) To research and analyze the extent to which the recommendations contained in these reports (if any) have been implemented to date.

B. Organization of research outcomes

We have organized our research into three parts:
1) a spreadsheet containing the details of the 58 reports we have reviewed. This document contains a brief summary of each report’s contents, including a list of causes for violence identified in each report, and a summary of the recommendations in each report;
2) a memorandum dividing all reports’ recommendations into 16 themes, and assessing the extent to which federal and provincial governments have taken action under each of the recommendation themes; and
3) An appendix containing a list of all reports’ recommendations in their original wording, also organized by theme.

Federal Government’s record of refusal: An act of violence against Indigenous women

On November 12, 1971 Helen Betty Osborne was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in the Pas, Northern Manitoba. On August 2014, we learned about the brutal murder of 15 year old Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Within the 43 year time span between the two murders, hundreds of Indigenous women have continued to go missing or have been murdered in every region across Canada.

Here’s a list of some of the most recent reports calling for the Canadian public to address the issue.

1. SUMA backs inquiry into MMIW, pushes to keep revenue sharing stable, Feb. 3, 2015:

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, SUMA joined their voices in support of an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

2. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Issues Report on missing and murdered women, December 21, 2014:

The IACHR report focuses on British Columbia and recommends movement to address violence against women and support for the creation of a national-level action plan or nation-wide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

3. The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) makes new research available, December 6, 2014:

Following the murder of Inuit university student Loretta Saunders, LEAF published two documents which list and synthesize 40 reports for MMIW advocates.

4. The Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women issue report, March 2014:

The Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women issues a report called ‘Invisible women: A Call to Action — ACAT Canada’, concludes by saying “the families will have to wait until the government changes to get the National Public Enquiry and National Action Plan”

5. UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya visits Canada and issues report on situation of Indigenous in Canada, July 2014:

United Nations Report — Crisis in Canada following a visit to Canada from October 7-11, 2013 by James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The document highlights least 29 official inquires with 500 recommendations for action have been put forward since 1996.

6. Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres respond to Royal Canadian Mounted Police, May 2014:

Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) response to Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Operations Report slams the November 2013 document. The OFIFC outlines inconsistencies and calls on the RCMP to provide concrete actions to address the high rates of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

7. RCMP issue report Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview, November 2013:

Over ten years after Stolen sisters was issued, the RCMP responds to missing and murdered Indigenous women. Brought us to a shocking total of 1100+ cases. Presently, the document is the most cited report used by media.

8. Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (Criminal): Missing Women Working Group issues report and recommendations, January 2012:

Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (Criminal): Missing Women Working Group established in February 2006.  Focuses between 2006 and 2010 confirming factors under which Aboriginal women became victims of violence and issues recommendations to reduce these factors.

9. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry issues a report in response to Robert Pickton case, November 2012:

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry issues a report entitled ‘Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Executive Summary’ a four volume response to British Columbia’s Missing and Murdered women in the wake of the Robert Pickton case.

10. Amnesty International report documents stories of missing and murdered Indigenous Women, October 2004:

Amnesty International Report entitled ‘Stolen sisters — A human rights response to Discrimination and Violence against Aboriginal women in Canada’ documents the stories of missing and murdered women over 30 years. The culmination of many inquiries (starting as far back as 1971), the report called for “Canadian officials to ensure the rights and safety of Aboriginal people are respected and upheld by police and courts.”

The list of reports originally appeared on MUSKRAT Magazine.

“We Can Afford a Missing Women’s Inquiry

It’s not just another study. It’s what indigenous people deserve.”

Joint Press Release: Coalition Continues to Demand National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

February 27, 2015

A coalition of advocacy groups, Indigenous organizations, and family members continue to demand that the federal government hold a national public inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. In its January 2015 report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights strongly supported a national inquiry because there is “much still to be understood and much to be acknowledged.” In a report of his visit to Canada in 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights and Freedoms, Dr. James Anaya, also supported the need for a national inquiry, as have Indigenous women and communities, human rights groups, opposition parties and Premiers.

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A national inquiry is needed to allow all voices to be heard and to educate the public about the root and intersecting causes of violence, systemic poverty, racism, sexism and intergenerational abuse. It must thoroughly investigate all national, provincial, regional and municipal police practices/policies and make sweeping changes to how Indigenous women and girls are treated in Canada.

The coalition acknowledges that the federal and provincial/territorial governments and Indigenous advocacy groups are meeting today at a national roundtable on this issue, but stresses that the roundtable cannot address the root causes of the tragic reality that Indigenous women and girls continue to be assaulted, go missing and are murdered at a shockingly disproportionate rate. A one-day family gathering occurred yesterday which provided space for the voices of families who were able to attend; however, there are still hundreds of families that need to have their voices heard. A peoples’ roundtable is also occurring today but those voices will not be heard at the main political roundtable.

A report released yesterday by a legal strategy group on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada reviewed 58 studies, reports and inquiries and found that the governments have only fully implemented a handful of recommendations, while hundreds have been made. This is absolutely unacceptable, and we call on the governments in Canada to review this important report and act swiftly on the recommendations, including the glaring need for a national public inquiry leading to a comprehensive and coordinated national strategy.

The coalition is well aware that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt is on record agreeing with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a national inquiry is not needed. We are further concerned that the government has repeatedly resorted to inflammatory and misleading language, such as the Minister’s comment that “if the [Indigenous] guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that’s how they are treated,” which deflect the government’s own responsibilities by blaming Indigenous societies and cultures. Former Commissioner Wally Oppal who headed the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia has also stated that a national inquiry is not needed and that the MWCI fulfilled the need for any investigation in British Columbia. These statements from public officials are completely opposite to what the grassroots, Indigenous and women’s organizations, and research demonstrates, and contribute to the institutionalized discrimination that Indigenous women and girls face.

The coalition will continue supporting the family members and working at the grassroots levels to advance justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and will continue to relentlessly pursue a national public inquiry leading to a comprehensive and coordinated strategy.

To read the Legal Strategy Coalition’s full report:
For further information please contact:
Amnesty International Canada, Craig Benjamin (613) 744-7667, ext 235
Atira Women’s Resource Society, Janice Abbott, Executive Director, (604) 331-1420
Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall (604) 808-0507
Beverley Jacobs, LL.B., LL.M., PhD Candidate, Advocate for Families of MMIWG , (778) 877-7402
Butterflies in Spirit, Lorelei Williams (778) 709-6498
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Terry Teegee (250) 640-3256
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre , Carol Martin (604) 681-8480
Holly Jarrett, Creator of #AmINext campaign, (613) 304-9566
Jenny Kwan, MLA, Vancouver-Mount Pleasant (604) 775-0790
PHS Community Services Society, Patrick Smith (604) 779-6837
Pivot Legal Society, Katrina Pacey, (604) 729-7849
The Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Shelagh Day (
Providing Alternatives, Counselling & Education (PACE) Society, Laura Dilley (604) 872-7651
Provincial Council of Women of British Columbia (PCWBC), Rosemary Mallory (604) 985-0878
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Keira Smith-Tague (604) 872-8212
Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (250) 490-5314
Union Gospel Mission, Derek Weiss (604) 253-3323
Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society, Lillian Howard (604) 253-9575
West Coast LEAF, Kasari Govender (604)684-8772
WISH Drop-In Centre Society, Kate Gibson (604) 720-5517

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?