Canada: CTF welcomes UN decision to conduct inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women

published 9 January 2012 updated 16 January 2012

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Executive Committee has endorsed the decision made by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to go to the United Nations to obtain such an inquiry to have human rights respected,” deplored CTF Executive Committee in a statement.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women released last year on December 13 its final report on violence against Aboriginal women, which completely ignored the input of the Aboriginal women who appeared before them. It did not address in any meaningful way proposals to deal with the systemic issues affecting Aboriginal women.

In addition, all references to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s obligation to respect the listed rights were removed from the final text, while Canada is a signatory of this declaration.

Therefore, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) requested the CEDAW Committee to launch an inquiry.

In 2010, the NWAC already held the only research identifying the disappearance and death of 582 Aboriginal women and girls across Canada in the last decades. Out a total of 582 cases, 393 died as a result of murder or negligence, and 115 remain missing. In 2004, Aboriginal women reported rates of violence, including domestic violence and sexual assault, 3.5 times higher than non-Aboriginal women.

According to the 2009 Amnesty International report, “Canada Follow up to the concluding observations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,” there are no comprehensive national statistics.

Studies have moreover consistently found that violence against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women is much more frequent, and of greater severity, than that experienced by other women in Canada. For instance, a 1996 government report found that Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 with status under the Indian Act are five times more likely than other women to die as a result of violence.

The announcement of the enquiry on December 14, 2011 was met with much applause by women’s groups across Canada, including EI member organisation CTF.

EI Indigenous Taskforce’s Chair, Darcel Russel, from the AEU/Australia, highlighted: “The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulate particular guarantees, rights, and freedoms for Indigenous women. We call on the Canadian government to ensure appropriate responses, as well as take measures addressing the systemic issues affecting Indigenous women and girls.”

The full report by the NWAC, Voices of Our Sisters In Spirit: A Research and Policy Report to Families and Communities, can be downloaded here.