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After three years, MMIWG inquiry releases report

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GATINEAU, Que. — Hundreds of families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and survivors are filing into the Canadian Museum of History to mark the release of findings from a commission tasked with examining root causes of violence. The much-anticipated report , to be formally presented in […]


GATINEAU, Que. -- Hundreds of families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and survivors are filing into the Canadian Museum of History to mark the release of findings from a commission tasked with examining root causes of violence.

The much-anticipated report, to be formally presented in a ceremony at the museum with more than 200 recommendations to multiple levels of government, calls violence against First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls a form of "genocide" and a crisis "centuries in the making."

It also includes calls for urgent action from numerous officials, such as health service providers across Canada to develop programs that could help young people recognize the signs of being targeted for exploitation.

MMIW inquiry
Women drum following the announcement of the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

"As the evidence demonstrates, human rights and Indigenous rights abuses and violations committed and condoned by the Canadian state represent genocide against Indigenous women, girls, and (LGBTQ and two-spirit) people," it concludes.

"These abuses and violations have resulted in the denial of safety, security, and human dignity."

The report is to be formally handed over in a two-hour ceremony in Gatineau, Que., across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in attendance.

The report, the culmination of a three-year effort that was often beset by controversy, delays and personnel problems, documents what chief commissioner Marion Buller calls "important truths" -- including that Canadian laws and institutions are themselves to blame for violating the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"I hope that knowing these truths will contribute to a better understanding of the real lives of Indigenous people and the violations of their human and Indigenous rights when they were targeted for violence," Buller writes.

The steps necessary to "end and redress this genocide" must be no less monumental than the combination of systems and actions that have been used to "maintain colonial violence for generations," the commissioners say.

The recommendations -- framed in the report as "calls for justice" -- include developing an effective response to human trafficking cases and sexual exploitation and violence, including in the sex industry. They are not optional, but constitute legal imperatives, it says.

Additional calls include the need to establish a national Indigenous and human rights ombudsperson and a national Indigenous and human rights tribunal.

It also recommends the development of a national action plan to ensure equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety, and health care, as well as long-term funding for education programs and awareness campaigns related to violence prevention.

Missing and murdered Indigenous women are believed to number in the thousands in Canada, but the report says that despite its best efforts to quantify the extent of the tragedy, "no one knows an exact number."

In 2005, the Native Women's Association of Canada created a database tracking cases and produced a 2010 report documenting 582 missing and murdered Indigenous women. In 2014, the RCMP released a national overview and pegged the number of cases from between 1980 and 2012 at nearly 1,200. Other unverified estimates are far higher.

Responding to the report's urgent conclusions is the responsibility not only of federal and provincial governments and law enforcement agencies, but all Canadians in both the immediate and long-term, it says.

"Individuals, institutions, and governments can all play a part.... We encourage you, as you read these recommendations, to understand and, most importantly, to act on yours."

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