Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett (The Canadian Press)

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett (The Canadian Press)

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

The federal government will not be able to deliver a national action plan to make life safer for Indigenous women and girls next month as promised because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said Tuesday.

The one-year anniversary since an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls issued its 1,200-page final report and 231 “calls for justice” will come in early June. In recent days, Indigenous women’s groups have pleaded with Ottawa for the plan to be fast-tracked because the stress of the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls.

In December, Bennett said the government believed “we’ve got to have something in the window by June.”

But the pandemic has made delivering the plan next month impossible, Bennett said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“We know it’s urgent and people are impatient but I think we also know that, and what we’ve been finding over these last months, it is often the same people on the front lines of COVID-19 who are on the front lines of keeping Indigenous women and girls and their families safe,” Bennett said.

The inquiry delivered its final report June 3, 2019 with a stunning conclusion that decades of persistent and systemic racism and human-rights violations had contributed to the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of Indigenous women and girls and that it constituted a genocide.

The body’s recommendations for action spanned themes of health, justice, security and culture, including addressing overcrowding and food insecurity for women in Indigenous communities, and more funding for women’s shelters. A national action plan was at the top of the list.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time a plan would be developed in collaboration with Indigenous leaders and provincial governments to keep it flexible and responsive to the different issues and needs in different regions.

Bennett said Tuesday there has been a lot completed and at least one jurisdiction, Yukon, is ready to go. But she said some provinces ”have indicated that they are going to need a little more time.”

She would not say when she thinks the plan will be finished because COVID-19 has so many uncertainties.

“Some of it will track with what happens with COVID, depending on a second wave,” she said. “We are committed to getting this done and having a quality plan that will address the issues that the families and survivors have identified.”

Lorraine Whitman, the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said she was appalled the government is blaming COVID-19 for the delay.

“Indigenous women are still dying and disappearing in Canada, families are still being left in the dark about the loss of their loved ones,” she said. ”The time to act is now, not years or even months from now.”

Whitman told a House of Commons committee May 15 that reports from her association’s provincial and territorial partners show the pandemic is taking a terrible toll on Indigenous women, with more reports of domestic violence, elder abuse and child abuse. A survey done by NWAC of 250 Indigenous women found more of them were afraid of domestic violence than they were of the novel coronavirus.

Whitman asked the committee to imagine the terror a woman feels when she is suddenly forced to stay at home with an abusive partner, when she has nowhere else to go and he has nowhere else to “let off steam.”

Whitman said NWAC has offered some tangible things the federal government can do immediately and has had no response. She said NWAC will give Ottawa until June 3 before it shares those publicly, the same day it intends to release a report card on the government’s actions to date.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

MMIWG

Just Posted

The plan for a three-storey, multi-family building on Second Street hit a setback on a recent provincial grant application. Record file photo
Province turns down grant for Cumberland project

Groups spearheading project may look to federal grant, say village staff

A young bear found deceased at the side of the road in the Comox Valley has conservation officers looking for answers around its death. Black Press file photo
Conservation seeking information for deceased Comox Valley bear

A young bear was found deceased at the side of the road near Kitty Coleman Park

Tools of the trade at the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Photo by Terry Farrell
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

A look at the first stage of the treatment process - where binding of solids and particles in the raw water happens before the water moves to filtration. Photo, CVRD
Water to flow soon from new Comox Valley treatment plant

“We are at our last major hurdle before achieving this critical goal.”

Comox town hall. Black Press file photo
Comox looking at the future of transportation in the town

Council adopted the 2020 Transportation Master Plan Update

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

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 Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read