Canada’s National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women reaches a powerful conclusion: Canada is complicit in acts of genocide. The report’s summary said: “While the Canadian genocide targets all Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people are particularly targeted.”
“We do know that thousands of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA have been lost to the Canadian genocide to date,” the report said. “The fact that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples are still here and that the population is growing, should not discount the charge of genocide; the resilience and continued growth of these populations don’t discount the many actions detailed within this report, both historical and contemporary, that have contributed to endemic violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”
“Ultimately, and despite different circumstances and backgrounds, what connects all these deaths is colonial violence, racism, and oppression,” says the report. “Canada is a settler colonial country.”
The final report, some 1,200-pages, addresses a vast array of topics on Indigenous right to culture, health, security, and justice. The long-awaited final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released to the public and political officials at an official closing ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Monday.
“Despite the National Inquiry’s best efforts to gather all of the truths relating to the missing and murdered, we conclude that no one knows an exact number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada,” the government inquiry concluded.
“Thousands of women’s deaths or disappearances have likely gone unrecorded over the decades, and many families likely did not feel ready or safe to share with the National Inquiry before our timelines required us to close registration. One of the most telling pieces of information, however, is the amount of people who shared about either their own experiences or their loved ones’ publicly for the first time. Without a doubt, there are many more.”
Out of the total number of participants that were involved in the collection of information by the inquiry officials, the www.mmiwg-ffada.ca site states that out of the 2,386 total participants in the “truth-gathering process,” 1,484 family members and survivors provided testimony, 819 individuals shared through artistic expressions, and 83 experts, Knowledge-Keepers and officials provided testimony to include 15 community hearings and nine Knowledge-keeper, expert and institutional hearings.
The report has more than 231 recommendations that call on all Canadians to work together to end this dark chapter in Canadian history. The commission said a “complete paradigm shift” is required in order to “dismantle colonialism.”
— The need for programs that address violence against Indigenous women and girls led by Indigenous people.
— Improving the collection and accuracy of race and gender-based data, as well as the use of police force, stops, and searches.
— Self-determined and Indigenous-led solutions and services
— Incorporating the knowledge of trauma into all policies
The report ties development by the extractive industries to the crisis. It says that the “safety and security of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, as well as their equitable benefit from development, at all stages of project planning, assessment, implementation, management, and monitoring.”
Critics pointed out that the report’s release was coming at the same time as the government was proposing additional natural resource development and pipeline construction projects.
On major critic to the report is the former federal; Aboriginal affairs minister who served during the Steven Harper government on Canada. In response to a CBC tweet that labels MMIW victims as victims of “Canadian Genocide,” Valcourt calls the inquiry a propagandist report.
“How far do those activists will go? What has been the cost to Canadians for this propagandist report? What have we learned that we did not already know? Who feels better in Canada among First Nations for that thunderous silly conclusion that all we wanted was to kill them all? Tweeted Valcourt.
Despite their different circumstances and backgrounds, all of the missing and murdered are connected by economic, social, and political marginalization, racism and misogyny are woven into the fabric of Canadian society," said Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the inquiry.
In addition to remarks from the National Inquiry commissioners and tribal residents, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the families and victims of missing and murdered Indigenous women: “We have failed you, we will fail you no longer.”
But Trudeau would not call the disappearances “genocide,” a word that Buller said mattered. Buller wrote: “This report is about deliberate race, identity, and gender-based genocide.”
“This is not what Canada is supposed to be about,” the report said. “It is not what it purports to stand for.”
In a series of press releases submitted to Indian Country Today, these officials and organizations offered the following remarks—some of them in part: (The entirety of the individual or organizations’ remarks can be read by clicking on the associated link in each instance.)
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says immediate and sustained action in coordination with First Nations is essential to fully implement the recommendations and Calls to Justice in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released in Gatineau this morning.
"The final report of the National Inquiry reaffirms what First Nations and families have been saying for many years – we need immediate, sustained and coordinated action to address the long-standing and systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls and those at risk," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "Lives are at stake. We cannot wait any longer for real action and real results to ensure the respect, safety and security of all First Nations at risk, and these efforts must be in coordination with survivors and families. I lift up survivors, family members and all those who shared their experiences. I thank them for their strength and courage in this important truth-telling exercise. We continue to stand with you in your healing journey."
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement to welcome the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls:
"I thank the Chief Commissioner, the Commissioners, Grandmothers, the National Family Advisory Circle, and the Commission's staff for their work and dedication. I especially wish to acknowledge and thank First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families and survivors, as well as knowledge keepers and experts, who participated in the Inquiry hearings and courageously told their stories. The Inquiry is a result of the work of many individuals and organizations who advocated tirelessly for Indigenous women and girls, and Indigenous LGBTQ and two-spirit people – and continue to do so today. Facing the hardest of truths is a necessary step to addressing them – and moving forward together.
"We will conduct a thorough review of this report, and we will develop and implement a National Action Plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people. We will work with Indigenous partners to determine next steps, and we will include the perspectives and full participation of Indigenous women and girls. We will also include the voices of LGBTQ and two-spirit people with lived experience, as well as the family members of victims, and survivors of violence. We will also continue to work with provinces, territories, and municipalities to encourage cooperation across all orders of government in responding to the report. Reducing the rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and Indigenous LGBTQ and two-spirit people is a priority for the Government of Canada. Our government will turn the Inquiry's Calls for Justice into real, meaningful, Indigenous-led action.
"Since the Inquiry's launch, we have taken steps to address early recommendations, honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, their families, and survivors, and take action on issues reflected in the Calls to Justice.”
Quebec Native Women
Quebec Native Women wishes to emphasize that the report ought to be only the beginning of a long process of change and transformation of the institutions and their practices.
"Quebec Native Women wishes to honor the courage of the families who testified before the commission, to shed additional light on this tragedy. The report published this morning must be a starting point to ensure justice for the families and provide them with answers so that all the painful stories they shared were not in vain. "
Quebec Native Women takes the responsibility to collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure that this report is not shelved and to support the governments in implementing the report's Calls for justice through concrete and effective measures. This national crisis and the urgent need for equity requires that all governments put indigenous women first.” - Viviane Michel, Quebec Native Women's president.
Metis Nation Council
“While we are hopeful that the report will serve the needs of the First Nations and Inuit, the Final Report falls far short in terms of addressing the interests of the Métis Nation or its people ... There is not a single reference to the Métis Nation. There is no reference to its existence as a distinct Indigenous people and Nation and does not address us any differently than First Nations or the Inuit...It is no wonder that I was not invited to the release of the Final Report" stated President Clément Chartier, "there is virtually nothing in the report that addresses the Métis Nation and its citizens."
The Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec
The Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec, which represents 11 affiliated Native Friendship Centres in Quebec said in a release that the group “applauds the courage of everyone who testified and salutes the national mobilization the inquiry sparked. Once again, Canada was witness to the strength and resilience of Indigenous women and families.”
The mandate of the National Inquiry
Considering the amount of information that was being gathered about missing and/or murdered Indigenous women over the course of two years, and to ensure structure and accurate reporting, the Reclaiming Power report followed a set of guidelines or mandate that was described on the National Inquiry’s ‘Our Mandate, Our Vision, Our Mission” website page:
The National Inquiry must look into and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including sexual violence. We must examine the underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional, and historical causes that contribute to the ongoing violence and particular vulnerabilities of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The mandate also directs us to look into and report on existing institutional policies and practices to address violence, including those that are effective in reducing violence and increasing safety.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls say their mandate—which covers all forms of violence—might be broad, but they would be able to “include women and girls who died under suspicious circumstances.”
The “Truth Gathering Process”
The Reclaiming Power report officials are composed of four Commissioners to include Chief Commissioner Marion Buller, Cree, who in 1994 was appointed as the first Indigenous woman as a Provincial Court Judge in British Columbia; Commissioner Michèle Audette, Quebecois and Innu; Commissioner Brian Eyolfson, Couchiching First Nation and Commissioner Qajaq Robinson, a legal expert that has worked for a plethora of First Nations communities and organizations.
According to National Inquiry officials, as written on the website, the entire legal process is independent of federal, provincial and territorial governments, crown corporations and Indigenous governments.
On the main page of the Reclaiming Power report page, under the “Our Women and Girls are Sacred” heading is the following:
The Commissioners’ mandate is to gather evidence and to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors.
Shining a light on all the causes of violence, murders, and disappearances is a daunting task. But it is a necessary one. We are exposing hard truths about the devastating impacts of colonization, racism, and sexism—aspects of Canadian society that many Canadians are reluctant to accept. Our goal is to offer effective recommendations that will enhance and ensure the safety of our women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals.
The closing ceremony
On Monday afternoon, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held a closing ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. The ceremony, which shared the National Inquiry’s key findings and hosted tribal leaders and communities members from all over Canada to include Assembly of First Nation’s Chief Perry Bellegarde who was accompanied by the family members of Tina Fontaine, a teenage Indigenous girl who was found dead wrapped in a duvet cover, and whose murder sparked international outrage when her alleged non-Indigenous murderer was set free.
Watch the closing ceremony here
Responses to the released report
On the same day as the Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has been released, several political officials, tribal officials and communities and Indigenous groups and allies have offered remarks about the report.
Here are the two volumes of the report:
Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
In addition to the report, Indigenous Services Canada offers counseling and support services for survivors and family members affected by the trauma related to MMIW. More information is available here.
Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant contributed to this report.