What will you do to further reconciliation?
This is the question posed once again to Canadians in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (the “MMIWG Report”). The recent MMIWG Report makes 231 recommendations, referred to as “Calls for Justice.”
The Calls for Justice are directed at federal, provincial and Indigenous governments to address areas of human and Indigenous rights, culture, health and wellness, security and justice. Other recommendations are directed at industries, institutions, services such as media, health-care providers, educators, police, Correctional Service Canada and those who work in child welfare.
These Calls for Justice include the development and implementation of a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people by all levels of government.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is putting pressure on Canada to implement the findings of the MMIWG Report, which concluded that the violence and rights violations it catalogues form part of an ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples, including the national action plan. The MMIWG inquiry commissioners say the national action plan should be publicly available and that annual updates should be provided. They propose that it be regionally specific, and include devoted funding and timelines for implementation by ensuring basic human rights, such as jobs, housing, education, safety and health care.
However, reconciliation also requires each Canadian to understand the MMIWG Report and to act. The MMIWG Report calls on all Canadians to be part of the change. In order to move forward, we must come to terms with our past and present participation in a colonial society that perpetrates violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
You may wonder how you can apply these ideals in a practical way in your daily life. Included in the MMIWG Report are these recommendations directed at all Canadians:
- 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.
- Using what you have learned and some of the resources suggested, become a strong ally. Being a strong ally involves more than just tolerance; it means actively working to break down barriers and to support others in every relationship and encounter in which you participate.
- Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs: in your home, in your workplace, or in social settings.
Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, a two-spirit Anishinaabe community advocate from Sagkeeng First Nation provides suggestions on how to integrate the Calls for Justice in one’s daily life. In her view, open communication and conversations are integral to advancing reconciliation: “In the daily life, I think one of the major forms of combating racism is having conversations with people within the community and building those relationships with Indigenous Peoples.” Attending community events, taking the time to read the report and research the Indigenous history of Canada, and taking responsibility to further reconciliation are all elements of how the Calls for Justice in the MMIWG Report can be integrated into Canadians’ daily lives.
Reconciliation requires Canadians to come to terms with what the report says – that substantive changes are necessary to end the genocide against Indigenous people, and in particular Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. While politicians wrestle with the legal and political ramifications of the use of the word genocide, and national action plans are developed, Canadians need not wait to advance reconciliation and respond to the Calls for Justice.