Today, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report. West Coast LEAF’s Executive Director, Kasari Govender, and Director of Litigation, Raji Mangat, were in Ottawa for the ceremonies marking the end of the Inquiry’s process looking at the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

The report recognizes the colonial and systemic underpinnings of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and people who are Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQQIA). This is an important day for all of us to confront our colonial past and present.

Significantly, the report is framed around four key pathways that perpetuate gendered, colonial violence, evidence of which was presented at hearings across Turtle Island (North America). The report is attentive to how the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people is intimately connected to historical, multigenerational, and intergenerational trauma experienced by Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

The report is properly focused on the social and economic marginalization of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people as another root cause of their disappearances and deaths. Much of the evidence before the Commissioners spoke to the perceived dispensability of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people and at how poverty frequently creates vulnerabilities that are exploited by those who would target them for harm.

The report also recognizes institutional apathy, a desire on the part of institutions and systems to protect the status quo, and an institutional lack of will to change as contributing to the targeting of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Finally, the report is framed around the appalling lack of recognition and respect for the agency and expertise of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

We join the Inquiry and Indigenous people across the country in calling on all governments to take concrete steps to address systemic and institutionally enshrined gender-based violence.

For example, the Report calls for a national Indigenous and human rights ombudsperson with wide scope over human rights violations. In our submissions, we sought the appointment of an independent watchdog on violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, with shared federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdiction. The watchdog would have responsibility to continue the work of the Inquiry by engaging in ongoing systemic inquiries and investigations as matters arise.

Another important recommendation of the Inquiry is to stop the apprehension of infants from Indigenous mothers right after they give birth. This strong recommendation has been echoed repeatedly by Indigenous mothers across BC and is critical to ending the colonial legacies and traumas of family separations.

We call on all governments to take the Inquiry’s recommendations seriously and take immediate action.

We recognize that many Indigenous women, communities, and families have been waiting for this report for many years, and that the report marks a significant moment in the decolonization and reconciliation work led by these same women, families, and communities. We are committed to working in collaboration, in consultation, and in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.