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What Should Canada Be Doing to Protect Indigenous Women?

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights blasts the government for the high number of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada.

Demonstrators at the 2010 Women's Memorial March for missing aboriginal women. Via flickr user Yaokcool.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has released a damning new report on Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, thought to number more than 1,000. After studying the rash of cases in British Columbia for two years, the organization is demanding that Canada enact a nation-wide inquiry.


The report consistently raises Canada's broader issues with its treatment of native women, and addresses the institutional and structural inequalities “resulting from entrenched historical discrimination and inequality” that plague Canada's indigenous women. The report reads:

“This includes the dispossession of indigenous lands, as well as historical laws and policies that negatively affected indigenous people, the consequences of which continue to prevent their full enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. This in turn entails addressing the persistence of longstanding social and economic marginalization through effective measures to combat poverty, improve education and employment, guarantee adequate housing, and address the disproportionate application of criminal law against indigenous people.”

Other actions the report authors suggest Canada take include:

—Safe public transportation along Highway 16 (also known as the “Highway of Tears” for the high number of indigenous women murdered near or along this highway.)

—The inclusion of indigenous women in roles of leadership when developing, implementing, and evaluating initiatives, programs, and policies related to them.

—Appoint a new Chair of the Advisory Committee on the Safety and Security of Vulnerable Women.

—Access to legal aid and support services for the families of missing or murdered indigenous women.

—Mandatory and ongoing training for police, prosecutors, judges, and court personnel "in the causes and consequences of gender-based violence in general and violence against indigenous women in particular."

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