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United Nations experts on women’s rights call for Canadian action plan to stop violence against Indigenous women

Source: NWAC, CAEFS, Amnesty International Canada November 26, 2008

Ottawa, ON — The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has expressed concern that “hundreds of cases involving aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past two decades have neither been fully investigated nor attracted priority attention, with the perpetrators remaining unpunished.”

Concluding its latest review of Canadian compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the committee has urged all levels of government to “give priority attention to combating violence against women” including by establishing a comprehensive national plan of action to address the social and economic factors that lead to increased risk for Indigenous women and women from ethnic minorities.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), and Amnesty International Canada are welcoming the committee’s efforts to focus long overdue attention on this critical human rights issue.

“The high levels of racialized, sexualized violence directed against Aboriginal women in Canada is a national and international shame,” says Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. “We urge governments in Canada to recognize these threats and take concrete action now.”

“This expert body of the United Nations has confirmed something that our organizations have been telling the government of Canada for years,” said Lucie Joncas, president of CAEFS. “It’s clear that immediate action is required to address the appalling levels of discrimination faced by women, especially poor and racialized women. That’s why we’re especially alarmed by the absence of any such measures in the government’s latest speech from the throne.”

“The UN’s recommendations underline the need for all levels of government to work with Indigenous women’s organizations to identify concrete solutions to address the discrimination faced by Indigenous women and the unacceptable levels of violence that is its consequence,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International. “Continued inaction is not an option.”

The committee called on al levels of government to “develop a specific and integrated plan for addressing the particular conditions affecting aboriginal women, both on and off reserves, and of ethnic and minority women, including poverty, poor health, inadequate housing, low school-completion rates, low employment rates, low income and high rates of violence.”

The committee also noted that “cuts in social assistance schemes in many provinces and at the resulting negative impact on the rights of vulnerable groups of women, such as single mothers, aboriginal women, Afro-Canadian women, immigrant women, elderly women and disabled women.”

The committee made a number of other important recommendations aimed at improving Canada’s human rights record for Aboriginal women, including:

  • proactive measures to address the shortage in shelters and services for Aboriginal women who are victims of violence;
  • measures to address the disproportionate number of Aboriginal children being put in state custody;
  • independent oversight of the correctional system and comprehensive and accessible redress measures for women who have experienced violations in the correctional system;
  • immediate action to address the discriminatory Bill C-31 provisions of the Indian Act in the transmission of status to future generations and
  • greater efforts to provide a sufficient number of affordable quality childcare spaces and affordable and adequate housing options, including in Aboriginal communities.

The committee also called for the federal government to create a mechanism to ensure “accountability and the transparent, coherent and consistent implementation” of Canada’s obligations under CEDAW.

  • Lucie Joncas, president, or Kim Pate, executive director: 613-298-2422Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) is a federation of 26 local, community based service providers who work with and on behalf of marginalized, victimized, criminalized, and imprisoned women and girls.
  • Rob McDonald: 613-722-3033, ext. 252 or 613-850-6922 rmcdonald@nwac-hq.orgNative Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a national political organization representing Aboriginal women since 1974. The mission of the NWAC is to achieve political, social and economic equality for all Aboriginal women in Canada.
  • Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, media relations (Toronto): 416-904-7158Amnesty International’s worldwide mission is to undertake research and action to prevent and end grave human rights abuses, including physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression and freedom from discrimination, within the context of work to promote all human rights.


Native Women’s Association of Canada

head office:

Six Nations of the Grand River
P.O. Box 331
Ohsweken, Ontario N0A 1M0
Telephone: 519.445.0990
Facsimile: 519.445.0924

satellite office:

1292 Wellington Street West
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 3A9
Telephone: 613.722.3033
Facsimile: 613.722.7687
Toll Free: 1.800.461.4043


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