Indigenous communities across Canada need women’s shelters now

The genocide continues…

The Liberal government announced it will build five new shelters on reserves by 2019. But those who work in these communities say that’s not nearly enough.

Canada's indigenous communities need women's shelters now
Portraits of murdered and missing women on a memorial table at the 2nd National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Winnipeg last year. Photo, The Canadian Press/John Woods.

Up to 4,000 indigenous families were glued to the media earlier this month when the five Commissioners for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held their first press conference in Ottawa. It was a long time coming. Since the inquiry officially began on Sept. 1, 2016, families have been waiting patiently for public hearings to begin.

Though the inquiry is finally underway, the many urgent needs facing indigenous women and girls across the country somehow still seem to be falling on deaf ears. Some of the requests being put to the government by families and advocacy groups include very basic human needs, like better access to health care, education and clean drinking water. But one of the most pressing — and overlooked — needs is shelters and safe spaces for women and girls suffering from domestic violence.

On any given night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters to escape abuse, while about 300 women and children are turned away because these shelters are already full. Of the 455 women’s shelters across Canada, just five percent serve women and children in indigenous communities. This statistic is especially disturbing given that indigenous women are subject to five times more violence than other demographics in Canada (they’re also six times more likely to be murdered). Between 2004 and 2009 alone, some 48,000 indigenous women reported having experienced some form physical or sexual spousal violence at home (according to Stat Can, that number didn’t change significantly when data was collected again in 2014.) MORE

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