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Interview: Harper's inaction plan on violence against Indigenous women

September 18, 2014

While continuing to dismiss widespread calls for a national inquiry for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the Harper government announced a $25 million "action plan"—proposing to develop community safety plans, projects to “break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse,” and work with Indigenous men to denounce violence against women.
As Audrey Huntley, co-founder of No More Silence, explained to CBC: “It feels to me like it’s really laying the blame on the aboriginal community and completely ignoring stranger violence. Yes, there is violence going on in our communities and on reserves, but also many of the women who are killed or who go missing, go missing in big cities. We need to engage Canadian society in why aboriginal women aren’t valued. That’s really what it comes down to. They’re not valued when it comes to the police investigating their cases, they’re not valued by that child welfare system and they’re not valued by their foster families, so really it’s a very deep systemic problem.” followed-up with an interview with Audrey Huntley:
1) Can you comment on the $25 million “action plan”?
From my understanding these are not new monies but rather existing funds that are being shuffled around and most of it is going into existing programs and policing.
2) The government has dismissed the widespread call for a national inquiry, saying the RCMP have already released their report and now we need “action.” Can you discuss the ongoing demands for an inquiry, and what real action is needed to bring justice?
I think many of our community members are demanding a national inquiry because they want to see some recognition of the severity of the issue by those in positions of authority and power to make changes. Family members feel not only the terrible pain of the loss of a loved one but in addition they suffer from the societal indifference around the issue and the crass dismissal of their concerns by the federal government.
Some positive action that would make Indigenous women less vulnerable in the immediate would include providing safe transportation in remote communities. A bus on the highway of tears was one of the recommendations of the Missing Women Inquiry in BC that still hasn't been implemented. In the long term it will take real decolonization in order for the killing to stop.
As for an inquiry there needs to be clarity as to what an inquiry would actually entail. Many family members simply want closed or idle cases to be reopened or want a review of the police investigation as opposed to research into the root causes of the violence which has already been done and that we know lie in ongoing settler colonialism.
3) Why is the Harper government so resistant to calls for an inquiry? What are the links between the Harper agenda (or the Canadian state) and violence against Indigenous women?
It is not in the interest of the Harper government for the depth and extent of this issue to be revealed. The Harper government's main agenda revolves around resource extraction and Indigenous people are in the way. The Harper and other settler governments will continue to implement genocidal policies that aim to eliminate Indigenous peoples as they stand between them and land and resources.
4) Can you discuss that various ways Indigenous women are organizing, like No More Silence?
No More Silence continues to organize ceremony on February 14th as an act of public mourning and to support family and community members. Over the past year or so we have partnered with Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Families of Sister in Spirit to create a community data base—more information about that can be found here.
5) How can non-Indigenous communities be allies?
Responsible allies need to call the government out on their genocidal policies as well as educate themselves on the history of this country. Allies can also help in concrete ways by volunteering their time or donating funds to community-led initiatives that do not look to the state for funding or solutions.
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