Roundtable on Preventing Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls
(July 27, 2016 – Ottawa)

On July 27, 2016, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women along with Anju Dhillon (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Status of Women) hosted a roundtable on Preventing Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls in Ottawa, Ontario. This roundtable is part of a broader engagement process to engage stakeholders across the country to inform the development of a federal strategy on gender-based violence. See http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/violence/strategy-strategie/index-en.html for more information about the engagement process.

The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples across Canada. As part of this commitment, the Government undertook a significant pre-inquiry engagement process to inform the design of a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. The Government has also accepted the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and announced its full support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

The purpose of this roundtable was to build on these efforts by focusing on specific actions the federal government could take now to address violence against Indigenous women and girls. It was attended by approximately 15 stakeholders, including representatives from national and regional Indigenous organizations (Inuit, Métis and First Nations), organizations focused on human rights and the wellbeing of Indigenous women, and Indigenous front-line and education workers.

Highlights

The roundtable discussion is summarized here. This summary should not be interpreted as a comprehensive account of the discussion, nor is it meant to suggest that there was consensus among the participants on the points outlined below.

Participants emphasized that a holistic and inclusive approach is needed to address violence against Indigenous women and girls. This meant:

  • An approach rooted in Indigenous culture that addresses the unique needs of different Indigenous communities
    • Needs and perspectives of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples must be seen as distinct
    • Recognizing unique needs of Indigenous peoples on- and off-reserve
    • Consideration of restorative justice programs and healing centres
    • Understanding that violence sometimes happens in the context of poverty, and a lack of housing and clean water, and that these basic rights must be addressed to end and prevent violence
  • A family-centered approach that involves honouring the needs and perspectives of all family members (including men and children)
  • An approach that sees violence along a continuum and understand it takes many forms (physical, sexual, emotional, environmental, spiritual and institutional)
  • An approach focused on long-term, sustainable solutions that include Indigenous men and boys. This includes:
    • Programs that help boys and young men strengthen their Inuit, Métis and First Nations identities
    • Engaging and including men and boys in anti-violence work
    • Culturally-appropriate and community-based rehabilitation supports for men who have been violent
  • Anti-violence work must be inclusive of two-spirited people, recognizing that two-spirited people experience systemic violence, and that thinking about violence in man/woman terms denies violence  against two-spirited individuals
  • Anti-violence work must also address the unique needs of people with disabilities
  • A strategy to end gender-based violence should be holistic at the government level and engage multiple departments

Participants supported an anti-oppression approach to violence. This meant:

  • Initiatives addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls should be culturally safe and led by Indigenous organizations and people and rooted in Indigenous traditions and cultures
  • Acknowledging and addressing the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including colonialism and racism
  • Acknowledging and addressing that institutional oppression can contribute to violence (for example, through the Indian Act, or a lack of funding for Indigenous institutions)
  • Considering specific Inuit/Métis/First Nations strategies to address violence, rather than considering it as an add-on to mainstream approaches
  • Ensuring there is consultation at every stage with Indigenous women and girls
  • Anti-violence work must be anti-oppressive. This could include:
    • language that is accurate, respectful and accessible, and translating resources into Indigenous languages
    • training in anti-oppression and Indigenous cultures for non-Indigenous professionals and police
    • dedicated anti-violence services funded and implemented separately from child protection services and the criminal justice system

Participants identified the following priority issues:

  • Unique needs of rural and northern communities. This included:
    • The need for innovative strategies to outreach and bring programs to communities
    • The need for emergency response services, mobile response and support teams and victim advocates and services
  • Focus on prevention and intervention programs for children and youth, including:
    • Education that begins at an early age and focuses on wellness and healthy relationships
    • Education for young women that gives them tools without making them responsible for violence
    • Investing in wellness programs for children
    • Developing supports for youth (age 16-24) transitioning out of child services
    • Addressing child sexual abuse
    • Addressing sexual exploitation and the trafficking of young Indigenous women and girls
  • Need for data collection, research, monitoring and evaluation:
    • Research should reflect the diversity of Indigenous urban and rural communities and should be qualitative as well as quantitative
    • Indigenous programs should be monitored and evaluated through an Indigenous framework
  • Need for long-term, dedicated funding. Participants noted that short-term, pilot project funding can create insecurity and competition. It also means that sometimes programs are developed and never implemented, or implemented, but never evaluated.

Overall, participants honoured the hard work that has already been done and saw this as a time for change. They recognized that violence against Indigenous women and girls is everybody's issue, not just an Indigenous women's issue. They reflected that ending violence against Indigenous women and girls can guide the broader efforts of ending violence against all women.

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