Canadian Genocide: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG)
Updated: Aug 7, 2022
This article discusses themes of gender-based violence and human trafficking and may be triggering for some readers.
"As a nation, we face a crisis: regardless of which number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is cited, the number is too great. The continuing murders, disappearances and violence prove that this crisis has escalated to a national emergency that calls for timely and effective responses. This is not what Canada is supposed to be about; it is not what it purports to stand for."
– Marion R. Buller CM, Chief Commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
The traumatic and destructive history of colonization continues to impact Indigenous families, communities, and overall Canadian society. It is the root cause of the continued epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
While Indigenous women make up just 4% of Canada’s female population, they disproportionately represented 16% of all women murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012.
Launched in 2016, Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has found that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than members of any other demographic group in Canada. Indigenous women and girls are also 16 times more likely to be killed or to disappear than Caucasian women.
A recent Statistics Canada report, based on findings from the 2018 survey of safety in public and private spaces and the 2019 general social survey on Canadians’ safety, further determines that 63% of Indigenous women have experienced either physical or sexual assault in their lifetime, which is staggeringly high compared to 45% of non-Indigenous women.
Statistics Canada’s report also recognizes that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women are more likely to experience physical or sexual assault in their lifetime if they were in the Government of Canada’s child welfare system as youth. Evidently, 81% of surveyed Indigenous women who had been in the child welfare system reported being physically or sexually assaulted in their life.
“Their experiences of trauma and violence started young by being taken from their family and then put in abusive foster homes.”
– Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, Co-Chair of Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik ("Women Walking Together" Initiative)
National Action Plan
The Government of Canada released its Federal Pathway report in June last year, outlining the government’s commitment and plan to help end the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people (two-spirt, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual people). The Federal Pathway is one part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan.
There is a federal commitment to a public education campaign intended to challenge the acceptance and normalization of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. This includes trauma-informed training for those who work with Indigenous people.
Also recognizing a correlation between the violence experienced by Indigenous women and the health inequalities and social disparities inflicted upon Indigenous people, the federal government commits to increasing the number of medical professionals in remote Indigenous communities and to making sexual and reproductive healthcare information and services more accessible for vulnerable communities.
Increased funds are promised for transitional housing, to help Indigenous women and children facing gender-based violence have greater access to shelters both on reserves and in urban areas.
Implemented this past year, Ontario’s Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Act recognizes that Indigenous women and girls also experience increased vulnerability of being targeted by traffickers for sexual exploitation. The Act mandates specific principles, such as recognition of Indigenous traditional
knowledge, that are crucial to supporting the province’s response to human trafficking.
Check out the Federal Pathway for more information on what the Government of Canada is doing to act on the MMIWG issue.
What Can You Do?
In its final report, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls lists a series of calls for justice for all Canadians to fulfill their role in combatting violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
Select Listed Actions From Report:
15.1 - Denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women, girls, and
15.2 - Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area. Learn about and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ history, cultures, pride, and diversity, acknowledging the land you live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today.
15.3 - 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.
15.4 - 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
15.5 - 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.
15.6 - Protect, support, and promote the safety of women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people by acknowledging and respecting the value of every person and every community, as well
as the right of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people to generate their
own, self-determined solutions.
15.7 - Create time and space for relationships based on respect as human beings, supporting and embracing differences with kindness, love, and respect. Learn about Indigenous principles of relationship specific to those Nations or communities in your local area and work, and put them into practice in all of your relationships with Indigenous Peoples.
15.8 - Help hold all governments accountable to act on the Calls for Justice, and to implement them according to the important principles we set out.
Listed Resources for Learning:
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Our Women and Girls Are Sacred: The Interim Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls. http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/publications/.
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Their Voices Will Guide Us: Student and Youth Engagement Guide. http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/publications/.
Listed Resources for Allyship:
Amnesty International. “10 Ways to Be a Genuine Ally to Indigenous Communities.”
Dr. Lynn Gehl. “Ally Bill of Responsibilities.”
Indigenous Perspectives Society. “How to Be an Ally to Indigenous People.”
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