By Brittany Hobson THE CANADIAN PRESS
Advocates across the country had a similar message for Ottawa one year after it released a national plan to end violence against Indigenous women and girls: the federal government has failed to live up to its commitments.
“It is with deep disappointment and frustration that I say that the lack of accountability in the past year is staggering and unacceptable,” Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, chairwoman of the National Family and Survivors Circle, said Friday.
“This is a national shame and is also dangerous. Each day of inaction in this area leads directly to the tragic loss of human life and further violence.”
Anderson-Pyrz spoke at an event in Gatineau, Que., marking the plan’s first year and the third anniversary of a final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that outlined 231 calls to justice. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and Justice Minister David Lametti also attended.
The national plan was at the top of the inquiry’s calls and was developed with several partners, including families of victims and survivors, distinct Indigenous groups and provincial, territorial and federal governments.
The National Family and Survivors Circle had been hopeful that the plan and a “federal pathway” document last year were a new way forward to put families at the centre of efforts to end systemic barriers and discrimination.
Anderson-Pyrz says that has not been the case.
“Impacted family members and survivors are not mere symbols of this crisis. We have a wealth of lived experience, expertise and knowledge that should be centred in all actions toward ending gender- and race-based violence.”
“Without the political will to create transformative change, this genocide will continue.”
Ottawa released its first progress report Friday that documents work completed between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, in several priority areas outlined by the inquiry.
Miller acknowledged the report shows little progress has been made over the past year.
“Things aren’t moving fast enough but they are moving forward,” he said.
The anniversary was not a day for people to pat themselves on the back, he added, as Indigenous women and girls still do not have the basic right of safety and security in their communities.
The progress report says more than 25 departments and agencies are implementing the plan through programs, funding and new or renewed policies.
New programs include support for families and survivors, cultural spaces, health and wellness, and languages, the report said.
The creation of an oversight body to represent the interests of families, survivors and Indigenous communities has not happened.
Miller said there is no excuse for that and the government is working on it. He also said there will be oversight put in place to monitor progress.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada released its own analysis saying Ottawa hasn’t moved forward much in the past year.
There have been funding commitments, but little has been done to directly support survivors and families, it said.
“Today, we are seeing the sad results of the government’s weak response to the crimes being committed against Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people,” said CEO Lynne Groulx.
“The National Action Plan, as it was drafted, was actually a recipe for inaction, and the people represented by our organization are paying the price.”
The association also released the progress it’s made on its own action plan.
It says 16 projects or programs aimed at reducing violence were delivered through two new resiliency lodges.
Metis women’s group,, announced it was stepping away from the federal progress report. The group did take part in the development of the national plan.
The organization said in a statement Friday the report was rushed and does not fully describe the lack of tangible action.
“We support the voices of national and provincial Indigenous women’s organizations” said president Melanie Omeniho. “Our voices have been silenced in what can only be described as political pretence.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed his government’s commitment to work with survivors, families, communities and other partners.
“We will not forget those who never came home and we will honour their memories by working tirelessly to build a better future, where everyone is safe from violence,” he said in a statement.