Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

COVID-19 magnified systemic discrimination against Indigenous women: Bennett

Bennett said Canada’s colonial legacy has played a role in worse outcomes for Indigenous women

COVID-19 has magnified the effects of systemic discrimination against Indigenous women in Canada, said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett at a virtual summit the federal government organized to discuss a feminist response to the pandemic.

Bennett said Canada’s colonial legacy has played a role in worse outcomes for Indigenous women.

She said that includes more layoffs, a lack of child care and a spike in family violence.

“We know that equality cannot be achieved by simply ensuring everyone has the same opportunities,” she said.

“We speak of income gaps between men and women, but those gaps exist between different demographics of women as well. That’s why any economic recovery plan for women must consider different lenses and perspectives in Canada.”

Odelle Pike, president of the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network, says having to remain isolated and apart from extended families has affected Indigenous women’s physical, mental and spiritual health.

She said resources to deal with mental-health problems are limited, since many Indigenous communities are small and remote.

“We do use a lot of our traditional ways of healing, like sharing circles, talking circles, healing circles and support circles,” she said.

Pike said violence against women, especially domestic violence, has intensified since the pandemic by about 60 per cent, and many women don’t feel safe to report being physically abused to the RCMP.

“We have about 80 per cent of Indigenous people in our area. … We have no safe houses for women to go to. Our closest safe house is three hours away,” she said.

“We had women refusing to go to the larger centres for cancer treatment because they didn’t have money for rent or for transportation.”

Bennett said the government is working on a plan to address the gender pay gap that contributes to women’s poverty and health concerns and raises barriers to leaving abusive relationships.

“We want to see a truly intersectional recovery for Indigenous women in this country,” she said.

Middle-Class Prosperity Minister Mona Fortier announced Monday a women-only task force to help advise policy-makers on the economic recovery ahead of the spring budget.

The former chief executive officer of Indspire, Canada’s largest Indigenous-led charity, said the government’s commitments are good but real action is needed.

“I’m going to look carefully at the mandate to see where the action and intervention points are,” Roberta Jamieson said during the virtual summit.

“When are we going to deliver in a timely fashion?”

She said although the government promised back in 2015 that all long-term drinking water advisories for Indigenous communities would be lifted by the end of this month, at least 40 Indigenous communities still don’t have safe drinking water.

“I don’t think ‘building back better’ cuts it, frankly, because that phrase assumes that the status quo was OK. Well, you won’t find any Indigenous community who think that,” she said.

“We’ve got to get not the band aids, no more studies. We got to get to the structural and systemic inequality that the majority, that are women, are bearing the brunt of in our communities.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering shows an “mini urban bazaar” for very small businesses proposed in Cumberland. Image, Cumberland staff report
Cumberland considers microbusiness hub downtown

Applicant will have to host online or outdoor meeting for public input

From left - Rev. Sulin Milne, rector of St Peter’s, Karen Cummins and Bill Henderson of Nature Comox Valley pose for a photo with the newly-planted Garry oak tree. Photo supplied
Young Garry oak planted at St. Peter’s church gardens as a sign of resiliency

By Tony Reynolds Special to The Record St Peter’s Anglican Church, Comox,… Continue reading

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Co-ordinator/founder David Clarke, right, is pictured with members of Comox Valley Street Outreach during Monday’s rig dig. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox Valley group aims to stop overdose deaths, reduce stigma

As the overdose crisis worsens throughout B.C., a local advocacy group is… Continue reading

London Drugs now taking COVID-19 bookings. Screenshot, London Drugs
Courtenay London Drugs now taking COVID-19 bookings

A number of locations in Western Canada selected to give vaccine

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

A total of 10 flight exposures have affected the Victoria International Airport in April so far, making it the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures

As of April 21, 10 flight exposures reported for the month

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

Most Read