Stolen Sisters: A human rights response to discrimination and violence against Indigenous women in Canada

Violence against women, and certainly violence against Indigenous women, is rarely understood as a human rights issue. To the extent that governments, media and the general public do consider concerns about violence against women, it is more frequent for it to be described as a criminal concern or a social issue. It is both of those things of course. But it is also very much a human rights issue.

Indigenous women and girls have the right to be safe and free from violence. When a woman is targeted for violence because of her gender or because of her Indigenous identity, her fundamental rights have been abused. And when she is not offered an adequate level of protection by state authorities because or her gender or because of her Indigenous identity, those rights have been violated.

Read Amnesty International’s 2004 Report: Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada

Read the Full report (pdf, 232kb) / Read a summary report (pdf, 616kB)

A Human Rights Crisis 

If you are an Indigenous woman or girl in Canada—whether you live on reserve or in an urban area, regardless of your age or socio-economic status—the simple fact that you are an Indigenous woman or girl means that you are at least 3 times more likely to experience violence, and at least 6 times more likely to be murdered than any other woman or girl in Canada. This violence is a national human rights crisis and it must stop. 

Why are the rates of violence so high? 

  • Racist and sexist stereotypes lead perpetrators to believe that they can get away with committing acts of violence against Indigenous women and girls. 
  • The many legacies of colonialism increase the risk of experiencing violence—from impoverishment to the lasting harm from residential schools to the disempowerment of Indigenous women and girls in their own communities. 
  • Decades of government and law enforcement inaction to end the violence. 

Amnesty International stands in solidarity with the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and Indigenous peoples’ organizations to demand real action now to prevent more sisters from being stolen.  

What needs to happen to stop the violence? 

A concerted, national response that is comprehensive, coordinated, well resourced, and developed in collaboration with Indigenous women and girls themselves. It should include: 

  • national action plan to end violence against women which addresses the root causes of violence and identifies holistic, culturally-appropriate ways in which to prevent violence and to support those impacted by violence. 
  • national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women focused on exposing the nature of this violence and on ensuring government and police accountability for an effective and coordinated response. 
  • Regular, comprehensive collection of data on violence against Indigenous women in official crime statistics. 

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