Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a daily press conference from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa to update Canadians on the government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Apr. 14, 2020. Andrew Meade/iPolitics
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still isn’t committing to a release date for a promised action plan responding to the findings of an inquiry tasked with investigating the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, as Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the report’s release.
“This first anniversary is a time to pay tribute to Indigenous women and girls who have seen horrific situations,” Trudeau said when challenged by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in the House of Commons about the government’s lagging response to the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
“We will continue to be there for them,” Trudeau said.
The government a few weeks ago revealed it was delaying the release of an action plan beyond the June 2020 deadline it set for itself. The MMIWG report had 231 calls to action documented throughout its more than 1,000 pages.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett told the Canadian Press about a week ago that delays were because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Trudeau doubled down on Wednesday.
“We have been acting on those calls for justice over the past year and we will continue to. The COVID-19 crisis has delayed the work by our partners and us on the response,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister said the findings of the report, which noted that Indigenous women and girls were 16 times more likely to be killed or disappear than white women in Canada, “amounts to genocide” when it was released last year.
In early May of this year, Lorraine Whitman, the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), told a roundtable that included federal cabinet ministers François-Philippe Champagne and Karina Gould that the pandemic has heightened the risk that Indigenous women face from violence.
The NWAC said in a press release on Wednesday that it found in a recent survey that one in five Indigenous women had experienced violence in the past three months.
It also gave the federal government a “failing grade” in a report card judging its efforts to address the MMIWG report’s calls to action.
“Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan,” said Whitman.
The NWAC said in the absence of a response plan from the Trudeau government that it’s held roundtable discussions with Indigenous women to better understand what their priorities are. It said that in May it sent the federal government a list of eight measures that could be the foundation of a national plan, but that it hasn’t yet received a response from Ottawa.
“We have not abandoned hope that the government will release a plan in the near future and to take our suggestions seriously,” said Whitman. “We are willing to do whatever is necessary to help make that happen. Although the government may have abandoned Indigenous women and their families, we will not.”