• Canada commits 'grave violation' of rights of aboriginal women: UN report
Mar 11, 2015

A United Nations committee has joined the chorus of critics who say Canada should establish a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said Canada has violated the rights of indigenous women by failing to thoroughly investigate why they are targeted for violence.

The body is adding its voice to domestic calls for an inquiry, which the Harper government has repeatedly said isn't necessary.

"This is an extremely important report for Canada," stated Dawn Harvard of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), in a news release.

"Canada has been told, first by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and now by the United Nations CEDAW Committee, that Canada's failures to act violate the human rights of aboriginal women." 

The committee report, released March 6, said police and the justice system have failed to effectively protect aboriginal women. It says indigenous women face grave and systematic violations of their rights.

'The loss of almost 1,200 Indigenous women and girls is not an indigenous issue, it's a Canadian issue.'- Perry Bellegarde, AFN National Chief

"Aboriginal women and girls are more likely to be victims of violence than men or non-aboriginal women and they are more likely to die as a result," the report said.

"Yet, despite the seriousness of the situation, the Canadian state has not sufficiently implemented measures to ensure that cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women are effectively investigated and prosecuted."

Canadian government disagrees 

Canada's formal response to the committee disagreed with the conclusion that there has been such a violation and rejected the call for an inquiry.

"Canada told the Committee that it is ‘strongly opposed' to the development of a national action plan," said Shelagh Day of Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).

"But the committee recommends that Canada establish a national public inquiry in order to develop an integrated national plan of action, and a coordinated mechanism for implementation and monitoring it. This is the step that is so clearly necessary now," Day said in a press release.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde echoed that statement: "The loss of almost 1,200 indigenous women and girls is not an indigenous issue, it's a Canadian issue.

"We continue to push for a national inquiry that would identify the root causes of violence, and for coordinated action across all jurisdictions to prevent and address violence against our sisters, mothers and daughters." 

Committee members Niklas Bruun and Barbara Bailey visited Canada in 2013 to conduct a confidential inquiry into allegations about the violence facing indigenous women and girls.

They said the roots of the problem run deep. "The violence inflicted on aboriginal women is often rooted in the deep socio-economic inequalities and discrimination their communities face and which can be traced back to the period of colonization," Bruun and Bailey stated.

The committee is made up of 23 independent human rights experts and oversees implementation of the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in countries that have ratified it.