Moving along ahead of the planned national inquiry on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a $100 million, three-year strategy to begin getting to the roots of violence against indigenous women.
“The appalling statistics on violence against Indigenous women reflect a reality that no one should have to endure,” Wynne said in a statement on February 23. “The strategy we have developed with indigenous partners affirms that everyone in Ontario deserves to feel safe in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities. We all have a role to play in putting an end to this violence.”
Among the statistics are that indigenous women in Ontario are three times more likely to be murdered than other women, the statement said, and in addition, “as a consequence of intergenerational trauma, indigenous children and youth are overrepresented in child protection services.” Nationwide, there are 1,200 or more indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered, according to new statistics.
Such figures are what have fueled calls to action from indigenous advocates for years, and aboriginal leaders expressed approval of the province’s strategy.
"When it comes to violence against indigenous women, there has always been a gap in the system,” said Deputy Grand Chief Denise Stonefish of the First Nations Women's Caucus, Chiefs of Ontario, in a statement. “We deserve justice that is fair and culturally supportive. The reforms outlined in this plan reflect that and will help bridge that gap.”
The new strategy, called Walking Together: Ontario's Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women, encompasses six action areas: supporting children, youth and families with a new Family Well-Being program that helps indigenous families in crisis and those dealing with intergenerational trauma; promoting community safety and healing that addresses human trafficking and other issues; developing a new training regimen for police; conducting public education and outreach to change attitudes that could perpetuate violence against women and girls; forging strong relationships between indigenous partners and the federal government, and improving data and research to build upon the other measures. The program implements many of the calls to action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, according to the Canadian Press. The TRC released its final report at the end of last year.
The Métis of Ontario were also onboard with the province’s strategy.
"Ending violence against indigenous women requires collective commitments and concrete actions,” said Gary Lipinski, president of the Métis Nation of Ontario, in Wynne’s statement. “That is what the Long-Term Strategy is all about. Implementing mandatory Métis, First Nations and Inuit cultural competency training in the public service is a key commitment. Increased awareness is integral to affecting real change and to advancing our shared goal of ending violence against Métis, First Nations and Inuit women."
However, the strategy needs to address more than Native women, Stonefish noted.
"We will not tolerate violence against our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandmothers,” Stonefish said. “This strategy is about sharing their story and bringing the issue of violence against Indigenous women to the forefront—and let's not forget about our missing and murdered men and boys, too."