Native Women's Association leaves national MMIWG action plan process, calling it 'toxic and dysfunctional'

The Native Women's Association of Canada released its own action plan Tuesday in response to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

'We are no safer now than we were two years ago' says NWAC president Lorraine Whitman

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michele Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Que., on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) released its own action plan Tuesday in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, after stepping away from the federal government's long-awaited plan.

"It has been two years since the commissioners of that inquiry made public their findings that the violence that targets us First Nations, Inuit and Métis sisters is a genocide, yet all we know is that very little has changed," said NWAC president Lorraine Whitman during a virtual news conference Tuesday. 

"We are no safer now than we were two years ago, so we are taking matters into our own hands."

The national inquiry released its final report, titled Reclaiming Power and Place, on June 3, 2019, after two years of gathering testimonies from families and survivors across the country. It identified 231 Calls for Justice.

On Tuesday, Whitman and NWAC CEO Lynne Groulx released Our Calls, Our Actions, which consists of 65 actions that the organization will take to address the Calls for Justice.

The core of the plan is to establish land-based resiliency lodges across Canada for healing Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. One lodge already exists in Chelsea, Que., and has been offering virtual programming during the pandemic, with a second slated to open in New Brunswick in the coming months.

WATCH | Lorraine Whitman outlines NWAC's action plan:

NWAC President on MMIWG action plan

3 years ago
Duration 1:13
The Native Women's Association of Canada president Lorraine Whitman announces the organization's action plan to address the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

NWAC also plans to advocate for the establishment of a government compensation fund for MMIWG families and survivors, to establish and maintain a national online MMIWG knowledge centre for disseminating information more broadly, and to host an MMIWG world summit to raise public awareness.

Martha Martin was one of two MMIWG family members to speak at the unveiling of the plan. Her daughter Chantel Moore was killed by police in New Brunswick during a wellness check last year.

"As a mother, I'm absolutely disgusted that they took my daughter's life as if she didn't matter," she said.

"Indigenous people are killed time and time again, and it just feels like there's no end to our hurting....  I think it's time that we stand up together and demand change."

Martha Martin, mother of Chantel Moore, brings her daughter's ashes to a demonstration outside an Edmundston police station in 2020. (Logan Perley/CBC)

Organization cites 'flawed' process for leaving national plan

NWAC was among 19 Indigenous organizations involved with the development of a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women and girls.

NWAC said it will not be a signatory on the document, calling the process flawed.

Whitman said they were "shut out of the major decision-making processes," were denied a seat on key working groups that provide input on the plan, and were subjected to lateral violence, rude comments and hostile email exchanges on committees where they were permitted.

"We could no longer be part of a process that was so toxic and dysfunctional," said Whitman.

"Although other organizations were supported financially to carry out the work and to meaningfully participate in the action plan process, NWAC was not, despite the fact ending the violence against Indigenous women is central to NWAC's mandate and the fact that we have been the leading voice on this issue for decades.

"We were an afterthought and perhaps an unwelcome intruder in the government's process."

National action plan to be released June 3

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said in a statement that NWAC was provided funding to engage with their membership on priorities to be included in the development of the national action plan, and acknowledged the challenges of bringing many voices and perspectives together throughout the process.

The national action plan is set to be released Thursday on the second anniversary of the inquiry's final report.

"There is much more work to do. We are greatly appreciative of NWAC's work from past engagement efforts, value their input to date and will continue to work with them," read the statement.

"We are hopeful we can continue to work together as we put in place the concrete measures to stop this national tragedy and help families and survivors as they seek healing and justice."

The federal government's 2021 budget set aside $2.2 billion toward responding to the national inquiry.

Lindsay Mathyssen, NDP critic for women and gender equality, said in a statement that she is disappointed in the Liberal government's "inability to work constructively" with the Native Women's Association on the action plan.

"This report must not sit on a shelf like the countless other reports the Liberals have failed to implement," said Mathyssen.

"The Liberal government loves to make symbolic gestures, or just say pretty words to show they are committed to reconciliation, but when it comes to making real and meaningful changes, they let politics get in the way." 


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.

With files from CBC Politics