Canada's Report On Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women Is A Striking Call To Action

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Recently, a nearly three year national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada came to a close. The New York Times reported on Monday that, according to the inquiry, this violence against Indigenous women in Canada amounts to genocide. And it wasn't just the conclusion that was sobering — the report also issued a profound call to action for the Canadian government, offering up 231 recommendations to address the violence.

The results of this extensive report were revealed on Monday during a ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec, which was attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. To put it into perspective, a 2014 study by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimated around 1,200 Indigenous women and girls were murdered or went missing between 1990 and 2012; government ministers estimated at the time that the number could be even higher. The inquiry included a number of strategies to collect more information on the crisis, as well, per The Times.

One such aspect of the inquiry included listening to over 1,500 Indigenous families of victims and survivors testify at hearings across Canada. Marion Buller, the chief commissioner of the inquiry and a retired Indigenous judge, said at the ceremony on Monday, "This is genocide ... An absolute paradigm shift is required to dismantle colonialism in Canadian society."

In response, Trudeau promised to go through the report and to create an actionable plan to respond to the crisis. "This is an uncomfortable day for Canada but it is an essential day," he said at the ceremony (via The Washington Post). "To the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of Canada, to their families and to survivors — we have failed you.

As The Times notes, the report stated specifically that the widespread disappearance and murder of Indigenous women and girls "[amounted] to a race-based genocide of Indigenous peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis." It further stated that it "has been empowered by colonial structures," and that police and the criminal justice system as a whole have failed these women and girls by perceiving them "through a lens of pervasive racist and sexist stereotypes."

The Times quotes a portion of the report that reads, “[police] apathy often takes the form of stereotyping and victim-blaming, such as when police describe missing loved ones as ‘drunks,’ ‘runaways out partying’ or ‘prostitutes unworthy of follow-up.’” As NPR notes, the report maintained that the national effort to end this violence "must be no less monumental than the combination of systems and actions that has worked to maintain colonial violence for generations."

As for the actual recommendations for how to address these conclusions, the report offers a wide array of approaches, from the national level to the local level. They include the prioritization of funding for, and civilian oversight of, Indigenous policing; an increased effort by Canadian officials to provide ways for Indigenous communities to connect with their own culture; and various criminal justice reform efforts, too. To learn more, you can take a look at the website for the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, which offers information and educational resources on the report and its findings.