This column is an opinion written by Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, as part of CBC’s “Mother. Sister. Daughter,” a project that tracked progress on the 231 calls to justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Read more from that investigation here.
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WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
For decades, Indigenous families and survivors have approached law enforcement agencies across the country with our concerns of serial predators targeting our women, girls and gender-diverse people.
This is backed by distressing and irrefutable evidence that Indigenous women experience violence at much higher rates than non-Indigenous people — which directly stems from unchecked racism and misogyny.
The rise in online hate, including white supremacy and misogyny, has led to a number of deadly and violent incidents around the world. It is clear that hate can compel people to act in murderous ways. But failing to recognize hate as a motivating factor is even more harmful.
And without legal consequences, we are certain that online hate will continue to rise and lead to an exacerbation of the ongoing genocide against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people.
However, individual and overt racism is only one factor in this genocide. We must also look at how systemic and structural racism and misogyny that are entrenched in Canada’s colonial and patriarchal systems allow serial killers to repeatedly prey on Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.
What makes us targets? A system that shows again and again that it will not exercise enough political will or develop accountability mechanisms to keep us safe from harm.
Four years have passed since the release of the 231 calls for justice from the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and although they are legal imperatives, very few have been fulfilled.
The 231 calls for justice are aimed at all governments (including Indigenous governments), law enforcement agencies, institutions, organizations and industries.
But as the final report says, “Our Calls for Justice aren’t just about institutions, or about governments, although they have foundational obligations to uphold; there is a role for everyone in the short and the long term. Individuals, institutions, and governments can all play a part.”
Responsibilities for all Canadians
So what obligations do individual Canadians have? You have been tasked with eight specific responsibilities:
- Call for Justice 15.1: Denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
- Call for Justice 15.2: Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area.
- Call for Justice 15.3: Read the MMIWG inquiry’s final report. Listen to the truths shared, and acknowledge the burden of these human and Indigenous rights violations.
- Call for Justice 15.4: Become a strong ally and actively work to break down barriers and support others in every relationship and encounter in which you participate.
- Call for Justice 15.5: Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same.
- Call for Justice 15.6: Protect, support and promote the safety of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people by acknowledging and respecting their value and their right to generate their own self-determined solutions.
- Call for Justice 15.7: Learn about Indigenous principles of relationship specific to those nations or communities in your local area, and practise them in your relationships.
- Call for Justice 15.8: Help hold all governments accountable to act on and implement the calls for justice.
The empathy that Canadians feel in this moment must last beyond a click onto the next news article.
It must stay in Canadians’ hearts past the evening’s news broadcast.
It must be top of mind at every opportunity that Canadians can act to end gender-based violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people — not only during daily interactions, but also at the ballot box.
The weight that MMIWG2S families, survivors, and Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people carry cannot be their burden alone. We all have a responsibility to end this genocide.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour service at 1-866-925-4419.
Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat.
Support is also available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.