Ministerial Question Period: Safety of Indigenous Women and Girls

By: The Hon. Amina Gerba

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Hon. Amina Gerba: Welcome, minister. I have a question for you on behalf of our colleague, Sen. Audette:

In June, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples released its report entitled Not Enough: All Words and No Action on MMIWG.

I would note that the Government of Canada ordered the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and that the commissioners, together with the families, submitted their report on June 3, 2019. Several of the Calls for Justice, including 4.1 and 4.6, urge the government to build and repair housing so that Indigenous women and girls have access to housing that is safe, appropriate to geographical and cultural needs, and available wherever they reside, whether in urban, rural or remote communities.

Minister, what have you done to ensure a safe environment for Indigenous women and girls?

Hon. Gudie Hutchings, P.C., M.P., Minister of Rural Economic Development: Thank you for that question, madam senator.

Since this is the week of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and LGBTQ2S+ people, it’s a fitting question. As a matter of fact, this morning I did an announcement on behalf of Minister Ien, who is responsible for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, and it was on Indigenous programs for women in rural areas.

The housing issue is succinct, and it is terrible everywhere in rural Canada, especially for Indigenous peoples. I can tell you that there is money set aside under Minister Hussen’s housing initiative for Indigenous peoples, and we need to get that done. We especially need more safe houses in rural and remote and Indigenous communities.

Everything is impacted, including transit — if somebody is in an abusive relationship, how they can get out. It’s connectivity as well. I was blessed to visit in the spring the Highway of Tears, which is that section of road in British Columbia where so many Indigenous girls have gone missing. That was a collaboration between federal, provincial governments and Rogers Communications. They saw that this area was known. It was targeted for Indigenous women and girls, and we partnered together to make sure that that section of road now has cell service. It was a terrible thing.

Partnerships will work. Partnerships will work on housing. Partnerships work on addressing this terrible issue that we all have to address.

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