Report advocates self-determined solutions to systemic problems underlying the ongoing crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Toronto, October 4, 2020 – Today, as Sisters in Spirit vigils are being held across the country, the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) has released a detailed report outlining key areas of concern and recommendations for moving forward in ending violence against Indigenous women and girls. It comes after the one year mark since the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The report, titled: Reconciliation with Indigenous Women: Changing the Story of MMIWG (2020), centers Indigenous women, their knowledge and experience, as not only the focus of the National Inquiry, but as leaders in solutions. It was informed by ONWA’s membership, previous reports, community engagements, and programs that address ending violence against Indigenous women and girls. It also honours community submissions from Indigenous women and families. This critical information must be integrated into the development of the National Action Plan if it is to be successful.
Indigenous women experience intersecting social and economic marginalization in many areas that contribute to their exploitation and vulnerability to violence. The report outlines 13 key recommendations covering 28 systems that Indigenous women navigate throughout their lifetime and the forms of violence they face within them, including: healthcare, child welfare, education, food/income security, homelessness/housing, employment, social services, media/social media, etc.
“Beyond physical violence, Indigenous women and girls also experience violence in the form of racism, discrimination, and a lack of sovereignty over their children, self and nations, as well as through misrepresentations in literature, education, and research,” says Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA. “To address violence against Indigenous women and girls, the National Action Plan must focus on these social and economic systems and their root causes.”
The report offers 13 recommendations based on decades of input from Indigenous women and previous reports, incorporating the traditional 13 Grandmother Moon Teachings. These strength-based recommendations and a wholistic approach foster independence, resilience, and environments in which Indigenous women and girls are respected, not dehumanized, and their safety is supported.
The reclaiming of Indigenous women’s leadership and restoring of identity is key to addressing the crisis. Indigenous women’s organizations play an important role as they bring critical knowledge, expertise, leadership, and community voice to the table. This is why ONWA is proud to participate as the federal government’s 11th Indigenous Women’s Working Group, to be comprised of Indigenous women’s service providers and experts on specific safety issues impacting Indigenous women.
“Grassroots Indigenous women’s organizations are severely underfunded even though they provide safe spaces where Indigenous women feel comfortable disclosing the violence they are experiencing,” says Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA. “There must be a commitment for the development of new funding relationships that include Indigenous women’s organizations because they are best equipped to respond. ONWA is pleased to be working with both the federal and provincial governments on the National Action Plan.”
Communities have the knowledge of how to begin the healing and reconciliation of the intergenerational trauma, oppression, and systemic racism that continue to affect overall health and safety. Having Indigenous women design, develop and deliver community-based programs with independence is where changed outcomes will occur.
The report includes many examples of Indigenous women developed solutions and best practices. For example, ONWA’s Breaking Free from Family Violence Program has supported 286 children reunifications and the prevention of 414 children from being apprehended by a child welfare agency in Ontario in the past two years alone. Other examples include: Babaamendam Trauma-Informed Care Program, Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women Program, and the Indigenous Victim and Family Liaison Program.
“At a traumatic time in my life, I needed someone to talk to and that would be there 24/7. I needed someone to convince me to make the right decisions instead of repeating my mistakes over and over again,” says an ONWA Community Member. “I endured a great amount of trauma. I could have grown in healthier ways learning from my aunties and from our culture.”
Indigenous women must have easy access to inclusive, trauma-informed, culturally based social services that are informed by Indigenous women and their immediate needs. This will lead directly to improved safety and help address the systemic causes of violence that have resulted in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Ontario Native Women’s Association
The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is a non-profit organization that empowers and supports all Indigenous women and their families in the province of Ontario through research, advocacy, policy development and programs that focus on local, regional and provincial activities, since 1971. Ending violence against Indigenous women and their families and ensuring equal access to justice, education, health services, environmental stewardship and economic development, sit at the cornerstone of the organization. ONWA insists on social and cultural wellbeing for all Indigenous women and their families, so that all women, regardless of tribal heritage may live their best life.
For further information:
ONWA Communications Manager
Tel: 647-970-7661 | Toll Free: 1-800-667-0816
“Being an Indigenous woman means we have to be more careful out there. We have to be 10 times better at everything we do in order to be taken seriously. To be an indigenous woman means to carry the world on our shoulders, together.” – Raven Reid, ONWA Community Member.
“Healing starts when the country we call home recognizes the harm they have caused. We stop MMIWG by standing up and protecting each other. We need support in order for change.” –Kayla Vecchio, ONWA Community Member
“A big part of the problem stems from what residential school took away from the elders and consequently, the next generations. It was parental love and that needs to be reintroduced in floods.” – ONWA Community Member
“Lack of housing is a huge challenge. This will have long-term impacts on both the physical and mental wellbeing of not only Indigenous women but also their children. This population is growing exponentially and we do not have the resources to permanently house everyone. This will lead to homelessness, which will lead to health issues, mental health issues, lack of education and vulnerability to traffickers.” – ONWA Community Member
“I do know that we cannot approach intergenerational trauma and trauma in general, with a cookie cutter approach. Each community will have their own traditions and medicines for healing. I do believe in a two-eyed seeing approach that incorporates both traditional and indigenous ways of knowing, alongside Western ways of knowing.” – Siggy Leslie, ONWA Community Member
“Healing is the ability to demonstrate love, resilience, and strength as well as the ability to cope even when faced with triggers and future traumas. The healing needs to go deep and work on a community level as well as an individual level.” – Siggy Leslie, ONWA Community Member