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Vancouver Rape Relief’s Statement on International Human Rights Day: Canada is not protecting the human rights of Indigenous women

December 10, 2022

As the world marks Human Rights Day on December 10, we denounce Canada for enabling the continuous violations of Indigenous women’s right to life, liberty and security.  

The murder of Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris, Rebecca Contois and Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman) at the hands of a man who was known to the Criminal Justice System for previous violent crimes that he committed against women, is tragic evidence of Canada’s failure yet again to guarantee Indigenous women with the most fundamental human rights; the right to life, liberty and security.

Despite Canada’s full awareness of the plight of Indigenous women in general and their vulnerability to male violence in particular, the federal and provincial governments refuse to implement crucial reforms that will protect Indigenous women and girls.

We are calling on Canada and its provinces to act immediately on four levels:

1. Accountability of offenders: with 95% of sexual assault reports recorded by police not resulting with a trial of the offender and with the routine release after arrest of men accused of assault and uttering threats against their female partners, men know that they can harm women with impunity.  The Criminal Justice System must undergo an effective transformation that will result with holding men who commit violence against women and children, accountable.

2. Eliminate poverty: the impoverishment of Indigenous women is a fundamental factor in their vulnerability to male violence. Canada and the different provinces must replace the inadequate welfare system with a Guaranteed Livable Income Scheme that meets standards of living and includes suitable housing.  

3. Addictions healing: the frequent violence that Indigenous women experience, often since they are young girls, along with poverty and the loss of family and community life, including the apprehension of Indigenous children, doom Indigenous women to such grief and pain that sometimes can only be subdued with drugs or alcohol. The provincial health systems must make detox and long-term recovery programs available on demand for Indigenous women.

4. Indigenous children welfare: Provinces must replace the apprehension and other state practices that sever the relationship between Indigenous mothers and their children, with supportive programs and funding that will allow and help Indigenous mothers to raise and care for their children. 

Canada must live up to its commitment and obligation to Indigenous women and protect their inherent right to safety: a life free from abuse and violence.  

In solidarity with Indigenous women,

The collective of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

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