The federal government announced the national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit, and gender-diverse people will be delayed because of COVID-19.
Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) president Lorraine Whitman said the government had nine months from last June till this year of February to start working on the national plan so using the pandemic as an excuse is unacceptable.
“We have even provided (Crown-Indigenous Relations) Minister (Carolyn) Bennett with eight recommendations that would have a real impact on reducing the loss of life and start the healing process for those who are suffering. However, we have not been given any acknowledgment that they have received our report,” she said May 27.
Whitman added that the action plan is needed more now because violence has increased during the pandemic.
“During COVID-19, you have to self-isolate and stay home. As a victim, you are in the same home as your abuser, so where would you go for safety?” she said.
“In a perfect world, we would stay home and it would be safe but when you are in an environment where there is abuse, your home is no longer a haven.”
Whitman wants the government to work with NWAC and provide a definite date as to when they are able to deliver the national action plan.
Manitoba’s Indigenous and Northern Relations spokesperson said addressing the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and working to end violence, is a priority of the provincial government.
“The Manitoba government recognizes the significance of the upcoming first anniversary of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), and remains committed to working with families, Indigenous communities and organizations to address its calls for justice meaningfully,” the spokesperson said.
“We are working on a plan to commemorate the day and recognize the anniversary of the release of the report on June 3.”
“Indigenous women and girls as well as Two Spirit and gender-diverse people continue to die by homicide and are experiencing violence at alarming rates,” Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a press release.
“Immediate action and tangible outcomes are imperative. Minister Bennett has said the reason for not having the plan is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the pandemic has highlighted the urgency to develop a national action plan to end the genocide.”
Nicole Wong covers northern and Indigenous issues for the Winnipeg Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.