Moving from rhetoric to action to end violence against First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women, girls and two-spirit people

On June 3, 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report, with 231 Calls for Justice.

Two years later, on June 3, 2021, the government of Canada released the 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan: Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.

The National Action Plan (NAP) was expected to outline how all levels of government will transform the National Inquiry’s 231 Calls for Justice into concrete actions to end the staggeringly high rates of violence against First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and two-spirit people. It is accompanied by C$2.2 billion in the 2021 federal budget, to be spent over five years to address the violence.

The NAP articulates guiding principles and government commitments to ways of working with Indigenous peoples to implement the plan. It also provides a high-level summary of some short-term federal, provincial and territorial government commitments to action. A network of working groups comprised of and led by Indigenous peoples provided guidance to government on the actions needed to implement the Calls for Justice and summaries from each working group are included in the plan.

Plan short on action

The NAP, however, falls short of articulating a comprehensive list of government priorities, with associated goals, objectives, and implementation timelines clearly connected to each of the 231 Calls for Justice.

The federal government acknowledged that the NAP is incomplete, stating that “The first step in the National Action Plan is to identify short-term priorities which are similar among the Contributing Partners. Following this, an implementation plan will be developed which will include medium- and long-term priorities, as well as specific actions for each priority, timelines, resources, and who will be responsible for achieving each action. Further, as an evergreen document, it is recognized that the National Action Plan will continue to grow and change as priorities shift or change, or as new priorities are identified.” It further stated that, “reporting and accountability mechanisms will be created, including regular updates to ensure the plan remains meaningful and effective and to track progress in a way that captures the impact of actions “on the ground”.”

Indigenous organizations had a broad spectrum of responses to the NAP. Some organizations applauded the plan’s distinctions-based approach and commitment to co-creating action plans with Indigenous peoples. Some organizations cautiously welcomed the NAP, calling for further details and concrete action without delay. And some organizations condemned the plan for being so delayed and short on action, and were concerned about the exclusion of some Indigenous activists and organizations in the plan’s creation. Some organizations wondered how 2021 budget commitments could be implemented in the absence of a detailed implementation plan.

Amnesty International’s expectations

When the National Inquiry concluded its work, Amnesty International called on Canada to “move beyond the piecemeal approach to ending the violence that has tragically failed First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, two-spirit people, families, and communities.” The incomplete plan released on June 3 is a continuation of the piecemeal approach, with disconnected plans continuing to be developed by each level of government. There is a need for locally adapted, distinctions-based approaches to action. But there is also a need to ensure consistency, so that no matter where a person lives, they have access to the same level of services and supports.

The solutions to ending violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people been known for a long time. Indigenous womens’ organizations, human rights groups, Parliamentary Committees, and international human rights bodies made recommendations for many years on concretely what needed to be done to end the violence. The National Inquiry’s final report reiterated many of these recommendations. And yet, two years after the National Inquiry concluded its work, government still does not have a clear and detailed plan to address the violence. This is unacceptable.  

Amnesty International is disappointed to see so little reference to policing reforms called for by the National Inquiry. Actions needed to address violence associated with resource development projects received scant mention. And while the NAP did address the need to address racism in healthcare, it did not specifically address forced and coerced sterilization, which the UN has affirmed is a form of torture that Canada must specifically address.

Canada has also committed to developing a separate action plan to prevent and address all forms of gender-based violence in Canada. It remains unclear how the NAP will be connected to this related action plan.

As Canada moves forward with implementing the NAP, Amnesty International would like to know:

  • Why has the process to develop a complete action plan been so delayed? What steps will be taken to end the delays, which lead to further violence and the denial of justice to survivors?
  • Moving forward, how will Canada increase public transparency on the development, implementation and monitoring of the plan?
  • How will Indigenous activists and organizations who were excluded from the process to develop the NAP be included in the process to further develop, implement, and monitor the plan?
  • When will the implementation plan for federal, provincial and territorial actions be available and how will this plan be made public?
  • What sort of accountability tools will be put in place to ensure regular, public reporting? What support will be provided to civil society organizations to do independent monitoring of the plan’s implementation?
  • How does Canada plan to specifically address forced and coerced sterilization of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, as called for by the UN Committee Against Torture?
  • How will Canada concretely address the harms to Indigenous women that are associated with industrial development projects?
  • What steps will Canada take to address serious concerns about policing that go beyond cultural competency training for officers?
  • When and how will regular, systematic, distinctions-based, publicly available reporting on violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people be available?

Working Group submissions to the NAP

The NAP is over 100 pages and included summaries from working groups. Where publicly available, the full submissions from these entities are provided here:

  • National Family and Survivors Circle
  • Assembly of First Nations
  • National Inuit Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Inuit Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People
  • 2SLGBTQQIA+ Sub-Working Group: MMIWG2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan Final Report
  • Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan: Urban Path to Reclaiming Power and Place, Regardless of Residency
  • Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Interim Report
  • Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People
  • Creating New Pathways for Data: The 2021 National Action Plan Data Strategy

Provincial and territorial government action plans

Only the Yukon and Ontario provided complete action plans. Some provinces and territories provided details in the NAP on the timeline and process to create their action plans.

Responses to the National Action Plan

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