The hullabaloo over the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) inquiry’s use of the word genocide has obscured its broader message, and that is more than a pity. It is a tragedy.
The inquiry’s report builds a powerful case about the systemic causes for the frighteningly large number of cases of Indigenous women and girls who have been victims of violence, abuse and, too often, murder.
The report focuses, as one might expect, on the justice system, especially on the police. It points out that many Indigenous families have not believed they could trust the police to effectively deal with the disappearances of their loved ones.
Those families had ample reason for their mistrust.
For the most part, policing on traditional Indigenous territory and in urban Indigenous communities has not been a matter of providing a service. The RCMP and local police forces have, in large measure, acted not as peacekeepers, but as occupiers. Rather than serve the people and their communities, their role has been to pacify them.
But the report’s scope goes far beyond policing.
The inquiry identifies structural ways in which the dysfunctional governance of Indigenous people and communities has produced the tragic results it was mandated to investigate.
In its calls to action the report recognizes “self-determination and self-governance as fundamental Indigenous and human rights and a best practice.”
It points out that “self-governance in all areas of Indigenous society are required to properly serve and protect Indigenous women and girls,” adding that this is particularly “true in the delivery of services.”
Quite specifically, the report tackles the way the federal government manages and funds basic services in Indigenous communities, including education. All too often, this is done through term-limited contribution agreements, essentially imposed by the government in Ottawa.
The report notes that these “short-term or project-based funding models in service areas are not sustainable.” It explains that they “represent a violation of inherent rights to self-governance and a failure to provide funding on a needs-based approach, equitably, substantively, and stably.”
Many previous studies made similar recommendations
None of what the MMIWG Inquiry has reported should come as news to anyone who has been paying attention to Indigenous issues for the past four decades.
The auditor general’s office drew the same conclusions as did the MMIWG Inquiry in a long series of damning reports, going back to the beginning of this century. MORE