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Canada’s MMIWG2S National Action Plan lacks an actual plan

The federal government finally released the long awaited Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirited (MMIWG2S) National Action Plan a couple of weeks ago. Many Indigenous leaders and family members were extremely disappointed with the lack of direction and the incredibly long delays in releasing the calls to action after the MMIWG2S National Inquiry’s final report was released.
“The most important thing for me is that there’s no accountability on how any of 231 calls to justice will be implemented in any of the provinces, territories or on a national level,” said Manitoba NDP MLA and MMIWG2S Spokesperson, Nahanni Fontaine. “The federal government announced $2.2 billion dollars towards the MMIWG2S National Action Plan, but there’s no accountability surrounding the dollars coming into the provinces and territories and how that money will be utilized. There’s no actual means to ensure that the money given to each provincial government will be spent where it’s supposed to be spent.
“A good example of this is when the federal government gave provinces and territories money for education during the pandemic, Pallister put that money into the general coffers and we don’t know if that money actually went to the schools. None of that money has been accounted for. There’s no accountability as to where that $85 million dollars went. As far as we can tell, the money was put into a general account and a small portion of it went out here and there, but what it was actually used for was to offset the deficit.
“I’m worried that any money Manitoba gets as part of the MMIWG2S National Action Plan, will have the same thing happen,” explained Fontaine. “I worry the money will get put into general revenues and maybe a little portion of it will go to community outreach organizations, but not the substantial amount overall that we will get from the federal government to our province.”
Fontaine also is skeptical of what will be identified as being done on the Province’s level, as part of the MMIWG2S National Action Plan. She feels many of the grassroots initiatives that they’re taking credit for, have started before the actual MMIWG2S Inquiry began.
“When you look at Manitoba’s response to this crisis, they’ve regurgitated things that have already been announced or said in the past,” noted Fontaine. “They’ve made announcements with regard to the Winnipeg Police Services (WPS), when in fact the WPS had already been working on certain initiatives and before the announcement even came. The government turned around and claimed it as part of their response and calls to justice in regards to this epidemic. Some of the parts announced in this action plan have already been started way back in 2015, which is well before the final report was even tabled.
“Currently there’s not a substantial response from Manitoba on how they will address these calls to action,” pointed out Fontaine.
Within the MMIWG2S National Action Plan, there’s very little mentioned or guidelines on how they will deal with offenders or predators. Many families of MMIWG2S would like to see the court system have a better plan in place for dealing with offenders, to ensure they don’t reoffend and harm another Indigenous woman, girl or two-spirited individual.
“When you read the plan, there’s not much emphasis on offenders,” stated Fontaine. “It’s talking about the situation after the fact but there’s no strategy in place to deal with the beginning of the issue, such as dealing with the perpetrators. I know that the families I’ve spoken with wanted to see more and something more substantial.
“Keep in mind that the federal government only gave the MMIWG2S Inquiry two years to do its work, from travelling across the country, taking testimonies from families, researching and writing the report. The federal government took two years to come up with this action plan that is lacking on so many levels. I think it’s a testament to how far and willing governments and people are willing to go to truly address the issue. To take two years to come up with a national action plan and to come up with this, personally, myself and other MMIWG2S families were expecting something more substantial and comprehensive; that’s not what we saw.”
The lack of a national database for MMIWG2S is a growing concern. There’s no way to get that information out on a much more broader level other than relying on local law enforcement to release the information. The federal government can’t even give an accurate number to the amount of MMIWG2S cases there are, because there isn’t even a way to classify these cases that would identify them as such.
“I’ve been trying to advocate and get governments to come up with both a provincial and national database for MMIWG2S,” explained Fontaine. “We don’t know how many MMIWG2S there actually are across Canada. Many organizations use the number of 1,200 as a reference, but that stems from the RCMP’s National Data Set back in May 2014. People don’t realize that the data set was only from November 1980 to November 2012. It’s not an accurate reflection of the numbers and it’s almost ten years old. Even when those numbers were released, they weren’t accurate numbers to begin with.
“How can a government or people in general, get a true sense of how critical the issue is if you don’t have a national or provincial data set? I’m currently working on a private member’s bill that would make the province keep that data here in Manitoba. They would have to establish a provincial data set for MMIWG2S here in Manitoba and be ongoing. Also by having a provincial and national data set, it means that there would have to be partnerships and buy-in from every single policing institution on a federal, provincial and municipal level. That takes a lot of work, but is a step in the right direction that we need to take.”
Many families of MMIWG2S feel there should be a designated police and investigation task force, which solely work on these cases to provide answers and justice to the victims. RCMP and WPS are left to investigate these cases with the limited resources they have. Currently the system doesn’t seem to be working in favour of either side.
“If you go back to September 2007, in late August, a woman by the name of Fonassa Bruyere from Sagkeeng First Nation, went missing,” noted Fontaine. “Her body was found where the bodies of four or five other Indigenous women were found. Back then I started calling for a task force. A task force can take many different forms. After that, they came up with Project Devote but it already started at a deficit because of the criteria they had established for cases to be investigated by that task force.
“I think there’s always a benefit when there’s dedicated front line police investigative services or resources devoted to MMIWG2S. It can take on many different forms, but a dedicated task force will only work if it’s resourced in such a way that allows the investigations to take place and finalize these cases, while bringing people to justice.”