Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (Missing Justice) puts forth the following list of demands in the spirit of supporting and upholding comprehensive demand-lists already put forth by Amnesty International in their 2004 Report Stolen Sisters, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Sisters in Spirit Campaign, and the Quebec Native Women report, Indigenous Women and Violence. As a grassroots collective, Missing Justice acknowledges the historic and ongoing abuse of Indigenous women at the hands of the Canadian state, recognizes the negative relationship between many Indigenous communities and the government, and is supportive of communities’ rights to self determination. Although the list below does make demands of the state and Canadian society, it does so with the intention of taking seriously the immediate threat to the lives of Indigenous women, with aims to dismantle the deeper systemic causes of violence in the long term.
Provide funding for research and awareness campaigns whose objective is to counteract the many harmful stereotypes about Indigenous women and girls that have historically increased their susceptibility to violence, and continue to do so today.
Federal, provincial and municipal governments must place high priority on, and allot sufficient funding to, individuals, communities, organizations and grassroots collectives who seek to raise awareness locally, provincially and nationally about the living conditions of Indigenous women, which render them more vulnerable to violence. The origins of certain preconceived notions associated with Indigenous women who are targets of violence must be fully understood and revealed. Police and the media often perpetuate stereotypes such as promiscuousness, laziness, the likeliness to be battling addictions, and a tendency to run away in order to explain why they are victimized or missing. The real root causes of violence against Indigenous women such as colonial conquest, continued racism and sexism inherent in the Canadian state, as well as an unwillingness by Canada to respect Indigenous nations’ right to self-determination, must be exposed and acknowledged via popular education, information-sharing, media outreach, and more.
Prioritize coverage of missing and murdered Indigenous women, as they are more likely to be targets of violence than any other sector of the population of Canada.
Mainstream, corporate, independent, and grassroots media must investigate and understand the significance of past and present threats to the lives of Indigenous women and recognize them as systematic. Media outlets must also prioritize coverage of the issues that affect Indigenous women. According to a Canadian government statistic, Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women living in Canada to die as a result of violence. Consequently, missing persons cases pertaining to them must be reacted to immediately and regularized in the media to expose potentially life-saving information to as many people as possible on a national level. Coverage of Indigenous women who have died violently should also be prioritized, for the purpose of acknowledging and drawing to attention the frequency and seriousness of the violence. Media must see beyond the stereotypes of Indigenous women that have thus far been perpetuated, and aim for quality and accuracy, with weight placed on investigative reporting.
Provide cultural sensitivity and anti-oppression training to all police forces so that police officers may be equipped with the tools to react promptly when an Indigenous woman or girl goes missing or is murdered, and to investigate completely and thoroughly.
Federal and Provincial governments must provide police forces with culturally specific anti-oppression training thereby preparing them to protect Indigenous communities. Police must not deliberate or hesitate to act when an Indigenous woman or girl is reported missing. There have been 520 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women since 1980. Many Indigenous activists put the number at 3000. This should be reason enough for police to comprehend violence against Indigenous women as a crisis of national proportions and each case should be treated as an increase of this crisis. Over 300 known cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women remain unsolved. Police must work to consult with and report regularly to the families and communities of victims. Police officers who fail to take the appropriate actions or who are complicit in the acts of violence themselves must be subject to the law and disciplined accordingly.
Recognize the Indian Act as a root cause of systemic violence against Indigenous women, and create a non-discriminatory legal framework.
The federal government of Canada must develop, in direct consultation with Indigenous communities and individuals, a new piece of legislation pertaining to First Nations which coincides with the UN Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Further, the state must pay heed to the recommendations of the 2009 Universal Periodic Review. The Indian Act, established in 1867, is a sexist and racist piece of legislation. The Act legitimized the residential school system and created the concept of Indian status which is still in effect today. Due to the Act, Indigenous women suffered a great loss of power within their communities, as the patrilineal use of status lead to their dependence on the Canadian state and on men. Indigenous women who lost their status and were forcibly displaced, prior to amendments to the act in 1985, often turned to the sex trade for survival, and found themselves in abusive relationships or battling drug addictions, with the state paying little regard to their safety. These women and their children are at high risk of violence today, as are the children of residential school survivors, due to the ongoing and lingering brutality of these establishments.
Obey the rule of Canadian and International law when handling court cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Justice Officials must identify and eliminate racial profiling in the Canadian Justice System. It is the fundamental duty of the System, as is outlined in section 11 of the Constitution Act to provide all necessary resources for a fair trial, including transportation and the right to proceedings in one’s native language. Federal, Provincial and Territorial legal systems must not diminish the severity of cases due to, or base legal rulings on, prejudices involving a victim’s livelihood such as sex work. Rape or other violence must not and cannot be justified by a woman’s work in the sex-trade. Moreover, individuals who are in positions of legal authority such as judges and police officers must be impartially punished for violent crimes they commit against Indigenous women.
Provide sufficient funding to women’s shelters and centers, especially those that are Native-run and that provide resources to sex workers.
Federal and provincial governments must increase funding for Indigenous women’s shelters and centers in close proximity to reserves to provide a safer place for Indigenous women and their children, as many women have to leave their home communities to access off-reserve shelters. Increased funding to Indigenous women’s centers, shelters, transition houses and resources for sex workers in and around cities is also necessary and would improve the conditions of Indigenous women. An increase in funding is especially needed in light of the Conservatives’ changes to Status of Women Canada’s mandate, coupled with the Liberals’ cuts to funds for women’s shelters and transition houses; options available to victims of abuse and to frontline workers who devote their lives to working with Indigenous women have been seriously limited by the cuts.
Conduct a public investigation in accordance with the many requests for one already put forth by Indigenous activists and communities, Amnesty International, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the United Nations.
The federal government of Canada must stop deflecting calls for a public inquiry into over 520 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, over 300 of which remain unsolved; government action must not be limited to the funding of research. Due to the seriousness of the threat posed to Indigenous women a thorough and transparent public investigation must be carried out in order to determine the full extent and nature of the violence and to explore avenues which most groups and organizations do not have the resources to folllow, such as international human sex-trafficking. The results of a public inquiry must be immediately followed with measures to correct the problem and create a safer environment for Indigenous women in Canada.