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Indigenous Women's Safety and Healing Missing

Thunder Bay, ON, June 03, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA) acknowledges and honours the thousands of Indigenous women and girls taken from us by violence, as well as the children, families, friends, and loved ones of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

This week we continue to witness the tragedies of colonization from Residential Schools, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to the Inquiry of Joyce Eshaquan. We acknowledge all residential school survivors. The collective loss of the 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School is immeasurable. To all survivors and families of Murdered and Missing and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, including those who chose not to participate in the process, your voices and stories are part of the solution.

The threads running through the families and survivors' stories speak of colonization, genocide, and erasure. It is clear that we cannot address these compound injustices with the same systems that created and sustain them.

ONWA maintains that Indigenous women are the experts of their own lives and hold the knowledge and solutions to address the issues they face. Indigenous women have the right to choose who represents their voices.

This year, 2021, marks ONWA's 50th anniversary. This makes us the oldest and largest Indigenous women's organization in Canada. ONWA was not invited to participate in the development of the National Action Plan. 

In 2016, ONWA made the decision to leave the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) and has not been affiliated with them since.  ONWA is not affiliated with NWAC. The voices of Indigenous women from Ontario, therefore, are not well captured in the Federal Pathways nor the National Action Plan.

"Indigenous women and their representatives and all urban Indigenous organizations, have a right (as per the UNDRIP) to participate in government policy at all levels" - Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Board President, ONWA

The federal government's Nation-to-Nation approach excludes Indigenous women who are not connected to a First Nation, Metis organization, or Inuit land claim organization. It reinforces patriarchal systems and values that continue to keep Indigenous women unsafe and vulnerable to violence. For many years, ONWA has maintained that an only distinction-based approach is not the right approach. What is needed is a distinction-based+ approach that includes all Indigenous women.

"The National Action Plan speaks of systemic racism and colonialism, but forgets to address immediate safety needs, sexism, patriarchy and their intersectional natures. Indigenous women go missing and are murdered because they are Indigenous and because they are women. We expected a National Action Plan to provide concrete solutions to this violence."  Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA

The federal government struggled with centering Indigenous women throughout this entire process. The National Action Plan does not address the disproportionate levels of domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, systemic violence and all other forms of violence that Indigenous women face. The Federal Government did not directly answer two fundamental questions:

  1. How do we keep Indigenous women safe in Canada?
  2. What do families and survivors need?

ONWA does not believe that this will offer sufficient protection to Indigenous women and girls. We must prioritize the well-being of current and future generations. As such, ONWA will advocate to not only be included in the implementation process but also advocate for:

  1. Addressing the immediate safety needs of Indigenous women.
  2. The reinstatement of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation for all Indigenous community members in Canada to have access to healing programs that meet their needs.
  3. Inclusion of Indigenous women's voices

The work that collectively needs to be done must focus on the prevention of all forms of violence for future generations of Indigenous women and girls.

To view ONWA's Reconciliation with Indigenous Women report go to: https://www.onwa.ca/learning-resources-mmiwg

To view the National Action Plan go to: https://mmiwg2splusnationalactionplan.ca/ (English) or https://ffada2eplusplandactionnational.ca/ (French)

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