The B.C. government has signed an agreement with First Nations groups pledging to end violence against aboriginal women and girls.
Premier Christy Clark signed a memorandum of understanding with groups including the First Nations Summit, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Métis Nation British Columbia.
The agreement, which was read aloud during a ceremony, does not include any specific policies or programs, but the province is pledging to work with First Nations groups to set goals and then create policies to reach them.
"We have a responsibility to create a world where all aboriginal people can live without fear," said Clark, in a press release issued Friday.
"I’d like to thank all the leaders and members of the Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women who have worked so tirelessly to take this step forward today."
The memorandum acknowledges the causes of violence against aboriginal women and girls are rooted in a history of colonial policies that attempted to destroy their culture and have traumatized generations of indigenous people.
Cheryl Casimer, a member of the First Nations Summit political executive, said the agreement represented a much-needed collaborative effort.
"It is unacceptable that in this day and age, violence against women and girls, and in particular aboriginal women and girls, is so prolific in our society," said Casimer.
"Unfortunately statistics don’t lie, they clearly indicate that aboriginal women and girls in Canada have a significantly higher risk of being the subject of violence."
'Poverty, inequality, and marginalization'
Clark says the memorandum is a public acknowledgement that will ignite what she calls a spark that will push policymakers toward change.
The government has faced criticism that it is not doing enough to protect aboriginal women, particularly in light of the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case, which resulted in an extensive report in December 2012.
- BACKGROUND Robert Pickton gets maximum sentence for murders
- REPORT Forsaken - the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report
- INQUIRY Pickton inquiry slams 'blatant failures' by police
B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould said she hoped the memo of understanding would result in policies that address the root causes of violence against aboriginal women and girls.
"Poverty, inequality, and marginalization — symptomatic of a far greater social malaise that can only be addressed through true reconciliation and dealing with the underlying reality of the devastating colonial legacy,” said Wilson-Raybould.
"Societies are judged by how well they treat their most vulnerable and we are no different. We can and must do better."