Tuesday featured two big announcements from Ottawa regarding Canada’s First Nations. The start of a consultation process to create an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women received the most attention.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s five-point plan to reset the relationship with native Canada is the larger story. That’s because the MMIW issue, important as it is, cannot be seen in isolation. It grows out of something bigger and deeper.
When Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was asked what the goal of the inquiry would be, she mentioned preventing a repetition of the tragedies it is to investigate. But that outcome is not attainable unless the depressing state of aboriginal Canada, which is in almost every way worse off than the rest of Canada, is somehow improved.
That’s a challenge for the federal government, but also for native leaders and communities. There is a lot of blame to go around, and a lot of responsibility too.
The new government in Ottawa is not the first to dream of a better tomorrow for Canada’s First Nations. Good intentions matter, but they are not enough.
The phenomenon of indigenous women who have gone missing and been murdered is a tragedy that has to be investigated, understood and addressed. In 2014, an aboriginal woman was six times as likely to be murdered as a non-aboriginal woman.
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