The federal government is not taking enough action to respond to the needs of Aboriginal women who live in poverty, according to a report from the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, released last week. More has to be done to stop the exploitation and violence against these women in need, the organization said.
The call from FAFIA is being echoed by Sisters in Spirit, a collaborative effort between several Aboriginal women’s organizations that works with the federal government toward addressing the violence and other human rights violations that Aboriginal women are victims of.
“We as a society need to do better to improve the outcomes and life chances of Aboriginal women, families, and communities,” said director of SIS, Kate Rexe.
Aboriginal women are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than other Canadian women, according to federal government statistics from 2004.
The statistics also indicate that approximately six in 10 incidences of violence against Aboriginal women are not reported, and 520 Aboriginal women and girls have disappeared or been murdered since 2000.
A 2008 United Nations review of levels of discrimination of women in Canada found two areas it said needed immediate action: taking definitive action to help women and girls living in poverty, and addressing the issue of abuse and discrimination against Aboriginal women and girls.
Though the government has been providing support to SIS, executive director of FAIFA, Kate McInturff, said it is “unclear if the government will continue to support them.” The SIS, after five years of government funding, may be coming to an end this March, she said.
The research conducted by the SIS is set up to determine the central factors surrounding violence against Aboriginal women, with a goal of being adequately equipped to support and provide services to the communities and people affected.
“We have been working for over a year to get a commitment … for Aboriginal women,” Rexe said. “And we’ve been told to wait until March to hear what we might be getting.”
Rexe said she believes the organisation has only begun to scratch the surface of understanding, and feels the government is not taking enough action to implement a concrete plan to stop the violence.
“I think it’s time to stop being polite and start taking action,” she said.
McInturff agrees that the government needs to take more action and uncover the reasons behind the slow and uneven police response to investigate violent crimes against Aboriginal women.
She said she believes the government needs to create a more systematic framework in which police forces from different regions and provinces have similar policies.
Certain provinces have realized the urgent need to address the issue of violence against Aboriginal women.
In 2007, Saskatchewan made public for the first time that 60 per cent of long-term missing person cases were Aboriginal women; in 2009, Manitoba created and “action group” to develop policies to assist abused and exploited women in the region.
Despite any progress seen on provincial levels, McInturff is calling on the federal government to take the lead.
“The issue for the federal government is their failure to respond in a systematic way,” McInturff said. “There has been uneven investigations compared to other thorough investigations and this is a failure that has been allowed.”