Ottawa’s plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women due by June

By Teresa Wright, the Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Liberal government will release its national action plan to respond to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by June 2020, says Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.

This will mean a full year will have passed after the inquiry’s final report was released before the public will get a chance to see Ottawa’s official plan to act on the inquiry’s 231 “calls for justice.’’

Speaking to chiefs and delegates at a special meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa Wednesday, Bennett said the government has been taking time to consult with Indigenous communities, leaders and organizations to ensure the action plan reflects the views of the people most affected.

“Co-development will be the key to getting this right, but we know that the plan has to be built on the wise practice of Indigenous women, those with lived experience and those with expertise,” she said.

“Every community must be able to see themselves in the plan.’’

The report’s recommendations include calls for an effective response to human-trafficking, sexual exploitation and violence, including in the sex industry. A national Indigenous- and human-rights ombudsperson and a national Indigenous- and human-rights tribunal are also needed, the report states.

The inquiry examined systemic problems in the justice system and has also called for justice and police officials to acknowledge that the historical and current relationship with Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people has been largely defined by colonialism, racism, bias and discrimination.

Bennett dismissed any notion the federal government is taking too long to act on the inquiry’s findings, noting some have raised concerns the June 2020 target date for the action plan might be “ambitious.’’

She she wants “something in the window” by June to show the government is committed to taking action, adding that this work would be ongoing.

“I do believe that an action plan is a living document and that we can fulfil of the wishes of the families and the survivors that they shouldn’t have to wait to have concrete action put in place to stop this national tragedy,” Bennett said.

She pointed to steps that have been taken in the interim to help the families of victims, including family-information liaison units, which were established to help victims’ families navigate bureaucracies to get information about loved ones.

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