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The slow violence of an evergreen genocide


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Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


Last year’s writers looked at Call to Action 41 seventeen months after the Inquiry’s final report, and it’s 293 Calls to Justice, were released.[1] At the time, discussions on an implementation plan had stalled, and they hoped the delay was “a moment to breathe and assess how to best move forward as a society before implementing the recommended Calls for Justice outlined in the report.” [2] This week we re-visited Call to Action 41, and its newest developments.

41. We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls.

On June 3, 2021, the Core Working Group [3] released a national action plan to put an end to the disproportionate violence faced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. The plan includes a “Federal Pathway” which lays out the federal government’s undertakings within the larger national plan.[4] Unsurprisingly, the federal plan was met with immediate critique.


Sheila Day, chair of the human rights committee for the Feminist Alliance for International Action described how underwhelming the plan was: “we were looking for and expecting concrete action with responsibilities assigned, timelines, and resource allocation.”[5] Instead, they got statements, not actionable plans.


Pam Palmater noted with particular concern that the plan was described as an “evergreen” document – subject to change, revision and updating.[6] Palmater noted that, responding to a genocide with a plan that has no measurable deliverables is just a way to ensure that what remains evergreen is the genocide itself. [7] Evergreen promises have their place. [8] They are living documents that evolve naturally as circumstances evolve and in that way, they can keep processes current without having to reinvent the wheel every time. The perpetuation of empty promises though, that’s not going to get us anywhere.

Prevention requires a plan of action. What’s more, the action that needs taking isn’t a mystery. In fact, the Federal Pathway’s thematic goals and commitments reads as a laundry list of everything advocates have been saying for years: revitalize of language and culture; support Indigenous representation; address systemic racism; provide Indigenous-led healing programs; return self government to Indigenous communities; and the list goes on.[9]


Within the pathway document, the government commits to preparing “an implementation plan …to effectively and clearly determine how the initiatives laid out in the Federal Pathway will be implemented, monitored and reported on.” [10] Wasn’t the Federal Pathway supposed to be the implementation plan?


While leaders keep themselves in an endless cycle of planning to make a plan, 171 Indigenous women were murdered in Canada in 2020. In 2016, when the Inquiry began its work, the reported number was 155. [11] These numbers are almost certainly underreported.

So, faced with increasing numbers of murdered Indigenous women and a government that finally admits that the problem is real, what did we get? A tired list of “thematic goals.”

Scholar Rob Nixon has used the term “slow violence” to describe “how deadly harms can accumulate and have their impacts felt over years or decades rather than all at once.” [12] It’s an apt description of where we’ve been and where we’re headed. It’s outcomes like this that lead folks to say ‘reconciliation is dead.’ All talk, no action. The genocide remains evergreen and the violence continues to build.


How many times do we need to make this ‘to-do list’ before focusing on HOW we get it done? The problems are complex, the solutions will be too. It’s well beyond time for the government to get to work. Thank goodness for those taking up preventative work themselves. Like Muaz Hassan, the grocer we introduced you to earlier this week.


We have searched for hope but rarely find it on Parliament Hill or within the “Honour” of the Crown. Rather, we find hope within our communities, and through the actions of individuals who take the call to Reconciliation to heart.

As we all continue to slog through a never ending pandemic and the constant oppression of colonialism, not to mention the cold and dark of January…we could all use an extra dose of hope. In the comments below, please share your good news stories of the people taking on the call to reconcile. Let’s head into the weekend confident that change is possible.

Until next time,


Team ReconciliACTION YEG

 

[1] includes 62 Calls for Miskotahâ (Michif word for change) from the Métis Perspectives report; “2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan: Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People”, (June 3, 2021) online: National Action Plan <www.MMIWG2Splus-nationalactionplan.ca> [National Action Plan]

https://mmiwg2splus-nationalactionplan.ca/2021-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-girls-and-2slgbtqqia-people-national-action-plan-ending-violence-against-indigenous-women-girls-and-2slgbtqqia-people


[2] “TRC Call to Action #41: Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls”, Team ReconciliACTION YEG (Nov. 25, 2020) online: <ualbertalaw.typepad.com>

https://ualbertalaw.typepad.com/faculty/2020/11/trc-call-to-action-41-inquiry-into-missing-and-murdered-women-and-girls.html


[3] National Action Plan, supra note 1, “the National Action Plan was co-developed by a Core Working Group made up of contributing partners and provinces and territories, in collaboration with the National Families and Survivors Circle. The development of the National Action Plan was—and continues to be—a coordinated effort between all governments (federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, Indigenous), Indigenous representative organizations, and Indigenous partners and communities.”


[4] Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, “The federal pathway”, Government of Canada (Jan. 6, 2022) online: <rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca> [CIRNAC] https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1617731561423/1617731691291


[5] “Lack of concrete action to deal with violence against Indigenous women ‘raising great frustration’”, APTN National News (June 3, 2021) online: <aptnnews.ca> [APTN]

https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/lack-of-concrete-action-to-deal-with-violence-against-indigenous-women-raising-great-frustration


[6] The authors of the action plan themselves described it as “evergreen.” See the press release: https://mmiwg2splus-nationalactionplan.ca/2021-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-girls-and-2slgbtqqia-people-national-action-plan-ending-violence-against-indigenous-women-girls-and-2slgbtqqia-people

[7] APTN, supra note 5.


[8] Black’s law dictionary defines an evergreen promise as one of “perpetual renewal or reoccurrence regardless of what happens in the future.” “What is EVERGREEN PROMISE?”, The Law Dictionary, online: <a href="https://thelawdictionary.org/evergreen-promise/" title="EVERGREEN PROMISE">EVERGREEN PROMISE</a> (https://thelawdictionary.org/evergreen-promise/)


[9] CIRNAC, supra note 4.


[10] Ibid.


[11] Statistics Canada, “Number, percentage and rate of homicide victims, by gender and Indigenous identity”, Government of Canada (July 27, 2021) online: <www.150.statcan.gc.ca>

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3510015601&pickMembers%5B0%5D=1.1&pickMembers%5B1%5D=2.3&cubeTimeFrame.startYear=2016&cubeTimeFrame.endYear=2020&referencePeriods=20160101%2C20200101


[12] “The Pace of Reconciliation Has Been Slow Violence”, The Tyee (Sept. 10, 2021) online: <thetyee.ca>

https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/09/10/Pace-Reconciliation-Slow-Violence/


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