Assembly of First Nations National Chief urges immediate action in response to Human Rights Watch Report on Abusive Policing and Neglect Along Highway of Tears
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and AFN Regional Chief for British Columbia Jody Wilson-Raybould today thanked Human Rights Watch for their attention to the tragic and dire situation experienced by Indigenous women and girls in Northern British Columbia and strongly urged the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the RCMP to work together with Indigenous peoples and nations to implement their recommendations.
“The stories shared in this report are heart-wrenching and absolutely appalling, particularly given this is only a small sample of the conditions and experiences of Indigenous women, girls and families across our territories,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. “I commend the courage of all those who’ve shared their stories, and continue to urge others aware of violence or misconduct to speak up. We cannot accept violence against or among our peoples. We owe it to the families who’ve lost loved ones, and to our children and future generations to achieve safe and secure communities for our kids to learn, grow and thrive.”
The report entitled “Those Who Take Us Away – Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada” was released this morning by Human Rights Watch, an independent international human rights organization. The 89-page document compiles research from interviews with 50 Indigenous women and girls, 37 interviews with families of murdered and missing women, Indigenous leaders, community service providers and others across 10 communities.
Human Rights Watch offers a number of recommendations echoing the concerns of First Nations regarding the need to ensure the safety and security of Indigenous women, girls and families, and establish accountability among policing and justice institutions, identifying a number of action items for the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the RCMP. Specifically, the report calls on the Government of Canada to establish a National Commission of Inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls before the end of 2013, further reiterating advocacy efforts by First Nation leaders, citizens and women’s organizations.
“This report once again underlines the urgent need for concrete action for change. We cannot lose any more of our people to statistics,” said National Chief Atleo. “We must make all efforts to ensure our citizens are protected, and that includes action by all parties – governments, police, citizens and families. Our focus must remain on the protection of our mothers, our daughters and our families, and the Assembly of First Nations will continue to press for a National Public Commission of Inquiry that will bring forward a comprehensive view and understanding of how we got to where we are today, and how we move forward to address root causes and better ensure safety and protection of all of our loved ones.”
The calls for an independent National Public Commission of Inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women have been strongly made by First Nation leadership over many years, most recently during the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December 2012.
AFN continues to work in coordination with First Nations across the country and other Indigenous and women’s organizations, including the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) to develop a national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women and girls. To further this work AFN and NWAC will host a National Forum on Community Safety and Ending Violence in April 2013. “We must do better as a society when our daily reality involves far too many First Nation women and girls finding themselves in vulnerable situations that too often lead to violence,” said AFN BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould. “First Nations are acting now for justice and prevention in our nations and our communities, but we cannot do it alone. The Government of Canada, British Columbia and the RCMP must share in the responsibility to find solutions and take concrete action. The safety and security of our peoples must be a priority for all of us.”
Human Rights Watch full report “Those Who Take Us Away – Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada” is available at http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/13/canada-abusive-policing-neglect-along-highway-tears.
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