Federal government releases long-awaited MMIWG national action plan

The federal government is set to release its national action plan today in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls' findings and its numerous recommendations.

‘Our goal here is to end the genocide,’ says National Family and Survivors Circle co-chair

A woman listens to speakers during ceremonies marking the release of the final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Gatineau, Que., in June 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The federal government is set to release its action plan today in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls' findings and its numerous recommendations.

It marks two years since the inquiry released its final report after gathering testimonies from families and survivors across the country. 

"Our goal here is to end the genocide," said Denise Pictou Maloney, co-chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle (NFSC), one of the many groups, along with the federal and provincial governments, that have been co-developing the plan.

"Our women deserve to have the right to live autonomously in their own environment undisturbed."

The NFSC was established last summer, and is made up of families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people, and of survivors of gender-based violence. 

On Wednesday, the NFSC presented its contributions to the plan to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett in a ceremonial event held virtually.

Bennett called Pictou Maloney and co-chair Hilda Anderson-Pyrz the "heart and soul of the work to respond to the national inquiry," during the ceremony.

"Your advice and guidance to the core working group and other contributing partners has truly made a difference," she said. 

The Native Women's Association of Canada announced Tuesday it won't be a signatory on the national plan.

Calls for justice

Pictou Maloney said it was important to keep families central to the process of crafting the national plan.

The NFSC's contribution to the plan, titled the Path Forward, Reclaiming Power and Place, identifies 30 actions that relate to many of the inquiry's 231 recommendations, which it called "calls for justice." They include prioritizing equitable funding, oversight for the implementation of the Calls for Justice, data collection, improving policing agencies and proper implementation and monitoring of Gladue reports.

"We know that immediate action is required. We cannot wait any longer," said Anderson-Pyrz, a member of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Manitoba and co-chair of the NFSC, during the ceremony.

Denise Pictou Maloney lights a candle for her mother, Annie Mae Pictou-Aquash, at a national inquiry event in Halifax in 2017. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

"Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are dying at alarming rates and are experiencing gender- and race-based violence at alarming rates so we must act now."

Pictou Maloney said many of the NFSC's priorities in making those 30 actions are based on accountability mechanisms that should be in place.

"It would be unethical to invest all this money and not have it benefit the sector that it's supposed to be dealing [with]," she said.

The federal 2020-21 budget has earmarked $2.2 billion for implementing the inquiry's recommendations. 

"That is something that I think has been missing in a lot of the work that's been done in the past."

Pictou Maloney, a member of the Sipekne'katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, said she hopes the process spurs action, something families — including her own — have been waiting for for decades.

She worked for the national inquiry and testified publicly at a Montreal hearing about the murder of her mother Annie Mae Pictou Aquash in 1976 by American Indian Movement members.

"We've been campaigning and fighting for 46 years and we still continue to campaign and fight for justice and validating her life even now after four trials," she said.

"Time doesn't necessarily make it any better because there's no justice, there's no mechanism in place to make sure that this stops."


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawà:ke, south of Montreal. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.