The chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls told survivors and families on Monday they have started to rewrite Canadian history. The tragedy, former B.C. judge Marion Buller said, is a direct result of a “persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human- and Indigenous-rights violations and abuses, perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state, designed to displace Indigenous people from their lands, social structures and governments, and to eradicate their existence as nations, communities, families and individuals.”
“This,” she said to a growing chorus of cheers and applause in the grand hall of the Canadian Museum of History across the Ottawa River from Parliament, “is genocide.”
Buller said she and her three fellow commissioners are holding up a mirror to the country, reflecting what they heard from more than 2,300 people over two years of cross-country public hearings and work to gather evidence.
“Your truths cannot be unheard,” Buller told hundreds of people gathered in the museum to mark the release of the inquiry report, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan.
A complete change is required to dismantle colonialism in Canadian society, said Buller, who is Cree from the Mistawasis First Nation in Saskatchewan.
“This paradigm-shift must come from all levels of government and public institutions,” she said. “Ideologies and instruments of colonialism, racism and misogyny, both past and present, must be rejected.”
The report contains more than 200 recommendations to multiple levels of government. It calls the violence against First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls a form of “genocide” and a crisis “centuries in the making.”
Below are 15 of the farthest-reaching recommendations:
- Establish a national Indigenous and human-rights ombudsperson and a national Indigenous and human-rights tribunal
- Create a national action plan to ensure equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety and health care
- Provide long-term funding for education programs and awareness campaigns related to violence prevention and combating lateral violence—that is, violence committed by one Indigenous person against another
- Prohibit taking children into foster care on the basis of poverty or cultural bias
- Fund Indigenous-led efforts to improve the representation of Indigenous people in popular culture
- Launch health and wellness services aimed at Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people, particularly so that health care is available to vulnerable Indigenous people in their own communities
- Create a guaranteed annual livable income for all Canadians, taking into account “diverse needs, realities and geographic locations”
- Create safe and affordable transit and transportation services in, to and from remote communities, to reduce dependence on risky activities such as hitchhiking
- Revise the Criminal Code to “eliminate definitions of offences that minimize the culpability of the offender”
- Fund policing in Indigenous communities so their services are equitable compared to those in non-Indigenous communities, including modern information technology, major-crime units and crime prevention
- Fund training and education for Indigenous people to thrive in education, health-care, media, policing, law and other fields
- Consider the welfare of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in planning resource-development and extraction projects
- Remove the “maximum security” classification in the federal correctional service, which limits access to rehabilitation and reintegration programs
- Increase Indigenous representation on all Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court
- Develop knowledge and read the final report. Listen to the truths shared, and acknowledge the burden of these human- and Indigenous-rights violations, and how they impact Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people today