Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michele Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Que., on June 3. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

‘It is our tears in those documents’: Yukon leaders react to final MMIWG report

The final report calls the mistreatment of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit individuals genocide

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has fulfilled its mandate judging by the findings of its final report, said a co-chair of the Yukon Advisory Council.

They “speak to the truth of what’s happening in Canada,” said Ann Maje Raider.

“It is our tears that are in those documents. The recommendations they’ve made are recommendations that they’ve heard across the country.”

The report, entitled Reclaiming Power and Place, was released at a closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que., on June 3. The more than 1,200-page document contains 231 calls for justice and is the result of two-and-a-half years of work that saw the inquiry travelling across the country to hear the testimonies of more than 2,380 families, survivors, knowledge-keepers and elders.

Among its most poignant findings is that systemic violence faced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people in Canada amounts to genocide, a problem “condoned by the Canadian state.”

Maje Raider, who is also the executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, attended the ceremony. She called it “historic.”

“It’s very hard to find words to describe how very powerful it was in the room,” she said. “It was very emotional for many of us, as many of us remembered our families and why we’re there. This was about our families, our sisters that have been murdered and missing. This has been about us wanting to find solutions. This was about us wanting an end to genocide.”

There are many hard truths in the report like ongoing socio-economic disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and historic traumas rooted in the legacy of the residential school system. Institutional biases are also addressed.

It’s Indigenous women who have borne the brunt of colonization, Maje Raider said.

She took particular aim at the justice system.

“It’s a legal system, not justice system,” she said, adding that it’s through this forum that Indigenous women, the victims, are punished.

“Our justice system is flawed. Women are not reporting violence, because the court has failed them. More or less it’s the woman that gets blamed. Their lives go to hell. Their lives fall apart when they report violence.

“As a country, we must have a paradigm shift at how we look at violence.”

Report “monumental,” says Whitehorse AWC

The final report isn’t so much new knowledge but a “monumental compilation” of things that Indigenous people have known all along, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle’s president Krista Reid said in an interview June 4

“It’s been a long time coming,” Reid told the News, describing the report as an authoritative collection of truths that haven’t been acknowledged by non-Indigenous Canadians.

While the Yukon has been “quite progressive” on Indigenous issues, Reid said the Yukon government will need to take a long, careful look at the 231 recommendations and then work with families, First Nations, grassroots organizations, non-profits and health and social service providers to implement the relevant ones.

For Indigenous women’s organizations in the Yukon, Reid said, of particular importance is funding for programming and capacity-building, and that any new programming for Indigenous people must be created by Indigenous people, with proper resources and implementation.

The change and good that comes out of the inquiry and report may not fully manifest within this generation, Reid acknowledged, but will benefit “our grandchildren, our little girls who aren’t even born yet.”

“Maybe someday, (I won’t be) scared to have my daughter walk home from work in the evening, just for the simple fact that she’s a young Indigenous girl, you know?” she said.

“Maybe some day I won’t have that fear. I’m not there yet, but it would be a reality for her children … This (change) is really important for the health and survival and (thriving) of our nations.”

Reflect on findings, AFN Yukon urges

In a statement released shortly after the end of the closing ceremony, Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek urged all Canadians to “stop, to reflect, and to take a very serious look at the systemic failures and lack of leadership demonstrated that has led to the preventable murders and abductions of our women and girls.”

“These unnecessary lost lives are very real to us and the grieving continues,” the statement says. “These women and girls were our daughters. Our nieces. Our sisters. Our granddaughters. They were our mothers and grandmothers. And the violence against our women is still happening today.”

The results of the inquiry “clearly show that the best way forward is for First Nations to reassert their inherent rights and our jurisdiction,” the statement concludes.

“This means taking back control of our own governance systems, such as restorative justice, our own healing mechanisms for impacted families and women affected by violence, the development of our own child and family services laws and systems, improved access to life-long education that is culturally relevant, increased access to Indigenous-led addictions and treatment programming, and the transfer of health care for delivery by First Nations.”

In a separate statement, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said the final report marks an “historic moment” for Canada, and that the Yukon government “will take time to review the report and carefully reflect on the recommendations that have been made.”

Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill, who co-chaired the Yukon advisory committee and received an advanced copy of the report, was not made available for an interview.

“Our aim is to change the story”

Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate and co-chair of the advisory council, called the work of the inquiry a “monumental task.”

“As Canadians, we must take this chapter of our history and move forward. I’m just really happy that we have this chapter written and happy that we’re moving forward with all of our partners to address and develop and action plan for Yukon that’s going to make sense for us. Our aim is to change the story.”

Asked if the advisory council will continue its work, she said, “Absolutely. That group will now move towards implementation and the development of an action plan.”

One of the report’s recommendations calls for a national action plan to be developed to address violence faced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, one that would be implemented by all levels of government, including Indigenous. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would set in motion such a plan.

Families were assigned case workers during the hearings. Dendys said that program will carry on.

“Those national supports will continue,” she said. “We’ve had an extension on the family support program, as well, through department of justice.

“Our goal is to work with all of our partners in collaboration.”

But some things need to change. Now that the report is out, larger investments are needed for cultural programming, Maje Raider said, where Indigenous people can get out on the land, connect with elders and their languages.

“That’s what will revitalize us. That is the missing link. It’s the culture.”

Anyone who requires support can contact the Yukon’s Family Information Liaison Unit at 867-393-7178, as well as the Nation Inquiry’s 24/7 support line at 1-844-413-6649

Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as an executive summary and supplementary reports on genocide and on Quebec, are available online at mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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