Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that while the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) inquiry is now complete, the work left to address the problem is not.
But Indigenous advocates say they’ll be watching closely to see how the government implements the recommendations in the final report of the commission, which wrapped up Monday after three years of studying the systemic issues behind the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
There are more than 200 recommendations included in the final report, which called the violence against women and girls a form of “genocide” and a crisis that has been “centuries in the making.”
Those recommendations ranged from helping people recognize the signs of exploitation to changing how the murders of Indigenous women are handled by the courts if they are committed by an intimate partner.
Trudeau has not yet said which recommendations the government will accept or include in its action plan, but he reacted to the report on Monday by pledging to make the issue a priority.
“We will conduct a thorough review of this report and we will develop and implement a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ and two-spirit people,” Trudeau said.
“Our government will turn the inquiry’s calls for justice into real, meaningful, Indigenous-led action.”
His pledge came as Indigenous leaders praised the work done by the commission but stressed that real action is needed to actually create change for the women, girls and families who have been impacted by systemic violence and racism.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde urged “immediate and sustained action” on Monday.
Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which advocates for Inuit interests, also issued a statement on the report.
Obed said the report and its findings gave her hope but that the next challenge would be turning promises into action.
“I am optimistic that the findings of this report and its calls to justice will help leverage the actions necessary to remedy the complex challenges that put Inuit women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people at greater risk for experiencing violence,” she wrote in the statement.
Obed also called on Indigenous men to do their part, saying: “This starts with Inuit men — and especially those of us in positions of influence — who have a responsibility for speaking out and taking action to end violence against women and girls in our households, communities and society.”
Families of some of the women and girls who have been murdered or gone missing also spoke out on the conclusion of the report.
Sandra Manyfeathers is a member of the Blood Reserve in Alberta and spoke with Global News ahead of the report’s publication.
Two of her older sisters were murdered as well as two of her nieces and a nephew.
Manyfeathers, who is a high school teacher in her community, said that while she has concerns that the process of the inquiry didn’t allow families enough time to share their grief, she’s hopeful that it will herald change.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that real change is going to take place in Canada,” she said.
“The time for aboriginal awareness has passed — we’ve been doing awareness for many decades now, and time for real change is now.”
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