Taking Our Lives Back into Our Own Hands
For decades, Indigenous people have continued to experience the fallout of the Canadian colonial project. The national crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is only one part of that fallout.
The federal and provincial governments continue to act as though the inherent rights of Indigenous people are not worth recognizing, and fail to act in an effort to improve the conditions faced by many Indigenous people. An example of this failure has been in the dismal response to the MMIWG Inquiry and ensuing National Action Plan. Some have dismissed the Plan as “an aspirational document with no funding, timelines, or measurable goals.” This has led to an understandable frustration and distrust toward the federal government, which has, in turn, led to Indigenous activists and groups to take action themselves.
“Our women are resilient and we are going to take our lives back into our own hands, and we are going to look after our own children and we are going to survive as a people,” said longtime Indigenous human rights activist Gladys Radek.
Photo Credit: NWAC Action Plan (Artist: Lauren Polchies) www.nwac.ca/assets-knowledge-centre/NWAC-action-plan-English.pdf
In 2021, two years after the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) created their own plan, entitled “Our Calls, Our Actions,” in which the organization laid out 65 steps that it will take to address the recommendations from the MMIWG Inquiry. The Calls by NWAC fall under the categories of culture and language; health and wellness; human security; international; justice; and public awareness.
One of the Calls to Action in the NWAC Action Plan is the creation of Resiliency Lodges. The Lodges are “places of healing, but also centres where Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people can reconnect with their culture and learn skills that can lead to economic independence. One Lodge in Quebec opened in 2020, and another Lodge, the Wabanaki Resiliency Lodge, is slated to open in Spring 2022. This new Lodge will “offer healing services, ceremonies, educational opportunities, economic development opportunities, and agriculture, food security, and traditional medicine programs to help Indigenous women and gender-diverse people heal and to support violence prevention efforts.”
In June 2022, the NWAC reported on their progress in working toward their Calls to Action, and was “pleased to announce that it has fully completed 40 of the 66 actions contained in that plan and has made progress on an additional 18.” The NWAC has also introduced accountability measures within their report, highlighting the importance of what still needs to be done. Lynne Groulx, NWAC’s CEO, stated that these accountability measures were put into place because of the fact that NWAC “understands the urgency, even if those who are in power do not.”
The work of the NWAC provides a great example of where the distrust and frustration toward the Canadian government has led to Indigenous folks putting in the work and pushing for reconciliation. The great work of Indigenous activists and grassroots organizations has been crucial in the process of relationship rebuilding, however, it is important to realize that the responsibility should not only be shouldered by Indigenous people.
Everyone has a role to play in the process of reconciliation and in repairing relationships. It is about time that the federal and provincial governments do more than apologize and release reports, but take action in shouldering the burden of national issues like the MMIWG crisis; one which is entirely theirs to bear.
Until next time,
Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG
 “NWAC Annual Report Card of Government’s National Action Plan to Address MMIWG and Violence Finds (Very) Little Progress; Nano Survey Shows Canadians Agree” (3 June 2022), online: Native Women’s Association of Canada <nwac.ca/abc/media-1>.  “Indigenous women’s group releases own plan on MMIWG, citing ‘toxic’ federal process” (1 June 2021), online: City News <kitchener.citynews.ca/national-news/indigenous-womens-group-releases-own-plan-on-mmiwg-citing-toxic-federal-process-3827827>.  “NWAC Action Plan” (2021) at 22, online(pdf): Native Women’s Association of Canada <www.nwac.ca/assets-knowledge-centre/NWAC-action-plan-English.pdf>.  “Resiliency Lodge is Focus of NWAC’s Plan to Address Genocide Against Indigenous Women” (June 2021), online: Shining the Spotlight: Native Women’s Association of Canada Newsletter <shiningthespotlight.nwac.ca/issue01/article-09.html>.  “The Resiliency Lodge: Growing a National Program” (August 2021), online: Shining the Spotlight: Native Women’s Association of Canada Newsletter <shiningthespotlight.nwac.ca/issue02/article-07.html#:~:text=The%20Wabanaki%20Resiliency%20Lodge%20will%20offer%20healing%20services%2C%20ceremonies%2C%20educational,to%20support%20violence%20prevention%20efforts.>.  Ibid.  Supra note 1.  Ibid.