Canada’s 600 Missing Aboriginal Women #FirstNations #NDN

Organization of American States Joins International Scrutiny of Canada’s  Missing Aboriginal Women

By David P.  Ball
OAS Sharon McIvor
(Photo: David P. Ball) Sharon McIvor, member of the Canadian Feminist  Alliance for Freedom and International Action (FAFIA), addressed the  Inter-American Human Rights Commission on March 28.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights  (IACHR) is scrutinizing the  disappearance of more than 600 aboriginal women in Canada, only months after the  United Nations announced its own investigation.

The commission—part of the Organization of American States—heard briefings  from Canadian organizations and government representatives on March 28.

“For years, we’ve been bringing to the attention of the federal government,  and the Canadian public, the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal  women in Canada,” said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native  Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). “Canada was just not paying attention.

“Obviously, this is discrimination, on the basis of race, against aboriginal  women. We want something specific to stop the violence and to get the police  agencies more involved in this and make them aware. This is the tragedy we see.  It has to come to an end.”

Lavell, who addressed the commission, said that Canada’s inaction represents  a “form of genocide” and that a national public inquiry is needed.

The briefing adds to growing international scrutiny of a country that often  boasts of its human rights record. In December the U.N. Committee on the  Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) announced it would open an investigation into the missing  women if it found “reliable information indicating grave or systematic (rights)  violations.” Canada has not yet responded.

“The numbers involved are alarming and should suggest urgent actions in  response,” Dinah Shelton, an IACHR Commissioner, told Indian Country Today Media  Network. However, Shelton added that the commission’s report will only be “thematic” in nature, reporting generally on indigenous women’s situation.

The briefing is a significant step, said the complainants, because previous  investigations had censured OAS member states for rights abuses. In 2003, the  commission published a scathing report criticizing Mexico over the  disappearances and murders of 518 women in Ciudad Juarez.

“The situation in Ciudad Juarez came to the Commission as a complaint against  Mexico and ended up before the court, where a judgment was taken against the  government,” Shelton confirmed. “We do not have a similar petition concerning  Canada, and I cannot comment in case a petition should arrive.”

The briefing heard presentations by NWAC and the Canadian Feminist Alliance  for Freedom and International Action (FAFIA), followed by a response from  Justice Canada on behalf of the State.

“The Government of Canada continues to take steps to improve the response of  the law enforcement and justice systems so they can better meet the needs of  Aboriginal women and their families,” Justice Canada spokesperson Carole Saindon  told ICTMN. “The government is also working with stakeholders to develop  collaborative responses, such as improving support for police  investigations.”

NWAC documented more than 600 missing or murdered aboriginal women using  police and media reports. When asked about that figure’s accuracy, Saindon  replied that the government has “confidence in [NWAC’s] work on this issue.”

For NWAC and FAFIA, petitioning for a formal investigation is a likely next  step.

“We’re thinking about it,” said FAFIA Human Rights Committee member Sharon  McIvor. “We have to exhaust domestic remedies before you can give a  petition.

“We took Canada by surprise,” she continued. “They knew about CEDAW, but we  wanted to go to multiple forums instead of just one. Our human rights are there,  and they’re solid.”

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Prayers are needed to end this massacre of my sisters… Lara

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