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Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Rights: Recognizing International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Holding Canada to Account at the 55th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Thunder Bay, ON - At the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), we work to amplify Indigenous women’s rights locally, nationally and internationally. This week, we recognize the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as we take up our rightful space at the 55th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to ensure the voices of Indigenous women inform the fourth Universal Periodic Review of Canada’s human rights record.

March 21 marks the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On this day in 1960, police opened fire killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa. In Canada, today its a reminder to combat all forms of racial discrimination, injustice, systemic racism, and hate.  


At ONWA, we know that Indigenous women continue to experience racism, discrimination, stigma, and hate due to their intersecting identities as being both Indigenous and women. Indigenous women’s experiences of racial discrimination are underpinned by colonialism and directly linked to disproportionate rates of violence, victimization and exploitation.


Supporting and working alongside Indigenous women for over 50 years, ONWA knows all too well that racism is embedded within the systems that Indigenous women interact with on a daily basis. This compounds with other forms of discrimination and violence, and contributes to housing insecurity and homelessness, increased involvement with child welfare, overincarceration of Indigenous women and barriers to education, employment and healthcare. Without a commitment to dismantle racism from these systems, Indigenous women’s safety will continue to be compromised.


That’s why, we’re bringing our voices to the Human Rights Council. This week, ONWA’s CEO, Cora McGuire-Cyrette, will make an oral statement by video during the 55th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council – at which, Canada’s human rights record is under review. As part of the Human Rights Council’s review process, Canada received 332 recommendations to uphold human rights across the country. Earlier this week, Canada issued a report noting they accept 222 of the recommendations received. ONWA is deeply concerned that acceptance will not lead to action.


Canada continues to use federalism and jurisdictional divides as an excuse for inaction. This excuse is used in over 100 of the accepted recommendations. These recommendations concern access to basic services like health care, education, addressing climate change and preventing gender-based violence.


“Violence against Indigenous women in particular, is not confined to jurisdictional boundaries – action to address it must not be either. To date, only 2 of the 231 Calls for Justice and only 13 of 94 Calls to Action have been implemented. Indigenous women have a right to be safe. Canada’s inaction in response to the ongoing MMIWG crisis is a form of systemic and structural violence against Indigenous women. We need action now” – Cora McGuire-Cyrette, CEO, ONWA


At ONWA, we know that Indigenous women and girls are strong and resilient, despite the systemic racism they are subjected to in their daily lives. We recognize Indigenous women’s inherent gifts from Creator, and recognize Indigenous women’s inherent rights to safety, equality, and dignity and to and to live free from all forms of discrimination.


ONWA is working to combat anti-Indigenous racism by empowering Indigenous women to reclaim their leadership roles in their communities and nations. We continue to share Indigenous women’s stories and amplify their voices at the provincial, national and international levels to drive systemic change to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism to ensure Indigenous women’s safety and healing.


ONWA urges everyone to stand up to anti-Indigenous racism and engage in meaningful practices of reconciliation with Indigenous women and their communities. We call upon each of you to learn more about Canada’s fourth Universal Periodic Review and to join us in holding federal, provincial and territorial governments accountable for implementing the recommendations they have accepted. We encourage you to take up your collective responsibility and acknowledge the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by engaging in dialogue, education, and ongoing action to end gendered, anti-Indigenous racism. 



Watch the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council at:



Learn more about the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: 

· Visit the United Nations website for more information:  

· Read the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD):  


Learn more about ONWA: 

· Visit our website and learn about upcoming events: 

· Read ONWA’s Strategic Picture 2021-2031:  



· Have you been discriminated against? Contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre: (1-866-625-5179) 

· Ontario Human Rights Commission:  


For more information and media inquiries, contact: 

Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager, Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)


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