Advocate calls for substantive changes for MMIWG on National Day of Awareness

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — The ongoing violence, oppression, and sex discrimination against Indigenous women is being highlighted Wednesday as part of the National Day of Awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit.

Chief Judy Wilson is with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. She says the day is a sombre reminder of just how much work needs to be done.

“Today marks the 26 year my sister died because of violence. And there are many survivors and many families who lost loved ones as well. So it’s a day we wear red in awareness” Wilson says.

“There’s still hundreds of women and girls that have died and are missing and experiencing tremendous violence. So I have to say, not a lot’s changed.”

Ottawa is drafting a National Action Plan on the issue, but Chief Wilson says in the meantime, much of the heavy lifting being done right now is by non-profits and local advocacy groups — which she calls “a glimmer of hope.”

“I know ladies in the Downtown Eastside that help people advocate in missing murdered women cases and investigations; they do it on their own time. With little very little resources — they don’t really have anything, they just do it. And that’s a gap failure. There should be support for that kind of advocacy,” she says.

“And it’s just a colossal gap in a lot of these areas where if we had a proper action plan that was properly approached and had input from the people that survived this every day, it would be more meaningful … from the survivors, and from the families of the loved ones, from the people that are experiencing it to make substantive changes that are needed from those systemic issues.”

The National Action Plan was meant to come out last year, however the Federal Government says the pandemic has forced its delay.

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Because of the continuous work many Indigenous people are putting into supporting each other, Wilson says she sees many people burnt out.

However, she still sees the “resiliency of our Indigenous women.”

In a statement from the UBCIC, Wilson says the organization is calling for the National Action Plan to include a fully reformed Bill S-3.

“Thousands of those newly entitled to status under Bill S-3 remain unable to claim the status and rights that were denied to them under the Indian Act,” the statement reads.

“Canada must do better if it means to reconcile with its colonial practices, past and present.”

A statement from the UBCIC says the 2013 disappearance and murder of then-21-year-old Hanna Harris of the Northern Cheyenne tribe is specifically being honoured Wednesday.

“[Harris] helped fuel the movement to honour and bring awareness to the victims of the MMIWG2S Crisis. Today we mark Hanna’s 29th birthday and call upon the public to not think of the missing and murdered as the faceless and forgotten, but as strong Indigenous women and individuals with incredible depth, life, and light.”

Red dresses were hung around the region as a symbol of the day, while a rally was held out front of Vancouver city hall.

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