Speaking Notes for the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women, on the launch of Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Wednesday, August 3, 2016 – Gatineau, Quebec – Status of Women Canada
Check Against Delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with the Government of Canada’s communications policy.
Thank you, Elder Commanda, for your words of wisdom. Thanks also to my colleagues Ministers Bennett and Wilson-Raybould for your remarks.
Most importantly, thank you to all of the families and loved ones of missing and murdered women and girls, and survivors of violence who bravely shared their stories with us over the past months. We recognize the immense gift you have given us in retelling these deeply personal memories.
I am grateful for the trust you have placed in us to hold dear the memories of your loved ones; and I honour your strength and courage to seek a better place for other women and girls in Canada.
I know that the process of sharing your stories with us has often been exceptionally painful. I thank you for your trust in us and for your many years of advocacy that made this important inquiry a reality.
The Government of Canada is deeply committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. This inquiry is an essential step in that process and will lay bare the longstanding, systemic discrimination that Indigenous women and girls experience in this country.
The systemic causes of the violence faced by Indigenous women and girls are both historical and ongoing. This inquiry will unflinchingly examine both.
As we listened to the stories shared by family members – by mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings and children – I was deeply saddened by the many ways you have been hurt. And although each family spoke about different circumstances, several themes became apparent.
Your stories clearly showed us that this inquiry must focus on discrimination in all its forms– including the racism and misogyny – that resulted in the severe and ongoing violence that your daughters, sisters, mothers and grandmothers faced and continue to live with today.
Canada’s colonial history altered Indigenous communities and families. And the racism brought on by colonization has had devastating impacts on Indigenous women’s power, their status, their role in their communities and their economic situations.
The intersection of racism and sexism greatly increases the vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls to experience violence. Changing these attitudes and practices requires a steady and honest gaze.
Just as important, the inquiry must also examine how racism and sexism are imbedded in the very institutions that are supposed to help and protect women and girls. We must call for changes that will mean a better, safer and kinder Canada.
Today we launch the inquiry, but I want to emphasize that this process is part of a wider commitment to prevent and address violence against women and girls.
I am presently conducting consultations with advocates, front-line service providers, and academics who work against gender-based violence. The advice and stories I have heard are helping me to develop a federal strategy to address said gender-based violence in Canada.
This strategy will not replace the Inquiry or the broader work that we will need to do once its recommendations are released.
But it will consider the specific experiences and needs of Indigenous women and girls. We can identify concrete actions that will prevent violence and support survivors as we await the results of the inquiry.
These actions will build on others that create the foundation of safety, such as supporting the creation of affordable housing, and growing Canada’s network of shelters and transition houses.
The launch of this inquiry is an important moment in our history.
It is a vital first step toward eliminating the racism, sexism and violence that holds us all back. The fact that so many Indigenous women and girls have been lost is a tragedy and a disgrace and it touches all Canadians.
We cannot move forward until we face, recognize and put a stop to this ongoing tragedy. Until that time, our entire country will live under its shadow and the consequences of our inaction.
Every Indigenous girl has the right to live free of violence, and every Indigenous woman deserves an equal chance to succeed.
Thank you all for your bravery, your conviction and your courage.
The journey of the inquiry will be difficult and it will be painful. But it will also be the unflinching gaze needed to create a country where all girls and women are equally safe.
Miigwetch, merci and thank you.
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