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Francyne Joe
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Francyne Joe
2018-04-24 15:41
Weyt-k, bonjour, and good afternoon, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the Algonquin and the Anishinaabeg peoples and thank them for allowing us on their unceded traditional territory, with special acknowledgement to the indigenous women and their families for whom NWAC exists.
Thank you for the invitation to share the Native Women's Association of Canada's perspectives on Bill C-262, which proposes an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. NWAC is in full support of this bill and all the implications that come with it.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not create new laws or rights. It enhances the existing rights of indigenous peoples and holds the Government of Canada accountable for ensuring respect to first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. It also emphasizes that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. What this bill sets out to do is implement the inherent human rights that indigenous peoples have and to enforce those rights within the Canadian legal system. Indigenous people should not only be consultants of the government but also participating members of all decision-making. This is not about saying yes or no; it's about creating equal and inclusionary negotiations.
At the end of my remarks, I will be making recommendations specific to the needs and issues of indigenous women, but overall, Bill C-262 is a good first step towards a better and stronger partnership between the federal government and indigenous authorities.
Indigenous women exist at the intersection of multiple forms of discrimination tied to gender, race, and colonialism. As a result, indigenous women face many barriers and obstacles to accessing their basic human rights. A fundamental human right is the right to education. We are seeing indigenous women and girls with lower levels of education than the rest of the Canadian population as well as with less access to adequate education. Often this can be attributed to poverty and discrimination based on geographic location.
There is a growing number of the indigenous population who identify as having a disability or functional limitation, especially first nations women living on reserves. As a triply marginalized group, indigenous women with disabilities face systemic and structural barriers that are not typically faced by non-indigenous and able-bodied Canadians.
There's a lack of culturally appropriate services available to indigenous women, whether they are health services or social services. Health care is a human right, and being culturally sensitive and trauma informed is crucial to delivering those services in a way that doesn't re-traumatize or cause further harm to our communities.
Social, political, and economic marginalization of indigenous women limits access to necessary and appropriate supports and services that reduce the impacts of poverty. Housing is a necessity, and indigenous women are more susceptible to homelessness, poverty, and violence. The most successful method of combatting poverty is empowering women through increased employment, access to education, access to health care, protection of cultural practices, and fostering socio-economic autonomy.
As activists and grassroots women have highlighted for decades, indigenous women and girls and gender-diverse people continue to experience discrimination on multiple grounds and in various forms. In terms of violence, indigenous women and girls 15 years and older are three to five times more likely to experience violence. Indigenous women have reported fearing for their lives over the last few decades at a much higher percentage than non-indigenous women and are also more likely to be murdered by strangers than non-indigenous women.
Canada's national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is currently hearing first-hand accounts that provide a heartbreaking foundation to these statistics through the stories told by the families and loved ones of our murdered and missing sisters. I mention this to highlight that everyone in Canada has a charter-guaranteed right to life, liberty, and security of person, and we must do everything we can to ensure that this becomes a reality in the lives of indigenous women rather than remaining a mere paragraph in a government document.
In Canada, indigenous peoples continue to be overrepresented in the correctional system. According to Correctional Services Canada, indigenous women, who represent only 4% of the female population in Canada, make up to 41% of women in sentenced custody. This is a clear link to systemic discrimination based on racial, cultural, and colonial prejudices that need to be identified and scrubbed from our legal and judicial system. Everyone has the right to a fair trial and equal treatment under the law.
The correctional system isn't the only one that sees staggeringly high percentages of indigenous peoples. Child and family services is the other. Over 50% of children within the child welfare system are indigenous. Currently there are more indigenous children in care than at the height of residential schools.
As per article 2 of UNDRIP, indigenous women will be recognized as equal to all men and women. Article 22 builds on this, cementing that the government must ensure that all indigenous women and girls can access their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all political, social, economic, and cultural contexts.
Article 18 ensures that indigenous women have the freedom and right to participate in all decision-making matters that would affect their rights. As you can imagine, this is a particularly important article for NWAC because it reflects what we have been fighting for since our inception in 1974.
Articles 6 and 9 refer to the right to a nationality and the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation in accordance with their traditions and customs. As countless studies have found, and as indigenous peoples have been saying for as long as colonialism has existed, self-determination is a key part of empowering indigenous communities.
Finally, to ensure that Bill C-262 leads to the full and effective harmonization of Canadian law with UNDRIP, we recommend the following: one, development of a mechanism that will ensure accountability and consistency; two, a commitment to ensure that language is inclusive and will reflect the rights, respect, and co-operation of indigenous women and LGBTQ2S; three, the recognition of the intersection of multiple forms of discrimination tied to gender, race, and colonialism; four, going beyond UNDRIP by including the specific needs and issues of the diverse indigenous communities in Canada—this includes a specific distinctions-based approach that recognizes the diversity amongst and between first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
Thank you for your time. Kukwstsétsemc. Meegwetch.
Bonnie Brayton
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Bonnie Brayton
2017-04-13 9:35
I'm really glad you asked the question. The fact that I brought up the Supreme Court decision speaks to a reality that we had to intervene at that level for this issue to even come forward before the judiciary because of what had happened at the provincial court level with this particular decision.
The reality is that women with disabilities are not believed. Many women are not believed. The whole issue of women's credibility in testifying is critical. The struggle for any woman to come forward and report is huge. You can imagine the kinds of challenges a woman with a disability faces just to get to that court if she's not supported. The idea that she gets to the court and then her credibility is questioned is huge. In terms of the reality that we must include civil society and focus on the training piece is absolutely critical, but that it be intersectional and that this isn't going far enough is absolutely clear.
The idea that Supreme Court decisions like these were attained by DAWN in 2012, and that most of the judiciary and crown prosecutors are not aware of this is so critical. It makes the point really strongly. That was in 2012; it's 2017. In December 2016, I heard from a woman whose daughter had been sexually assaulted. She had a learning disability, was in high school, and was being told by the crown prosecutor that she shouldn't go forward. She didn't really want to go through this, having been discouraged from going forward when she had reported—a 13-year-old girl sexually assaulted at her break in school. So yes, I think it's extremely critical.
Women with disabilities are being sexually assaulted at at least twice the rate of other women and we are not being supported to come forward and testify. Again, I'm coming to the point that all the other folks have made and we've reiterated here: it's critical to understand that, to support that.
Nobody supported DAWN going to the Supreme Court except LEAF. There was no funding. There was just enough funding to get us to the table. To understand that for DAWN Canada to even exist 30 years in, and we're the only organization for women with disabilities, speaks to the huge gap in understanding of who needs to be supported at the civil society level and all the way up.
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