Question Period: Action Plan for Crown-Indigenous Relations

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond, The Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas

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Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I would like to ask a question of the Government Representative on behalf of my colleague Senator Lovelace Nicholas.

The MMIWG Inquiry delivered its final report on June 3, 2019, concluding that systemic racism and human rights violations have contributed to the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of Indigenous women and girls and constitute an event of genocide.

The final report states the Calls for Justice are not mere recommendations or point lists of best practices. They are legal imperatives rooted in Canada’s obligations under international and domestic human rights norms and laws. Last week, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations the Honourable Carolyn Bennett said that Ottawa is delaying its intended release of the national action plan this month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t you think that using the pandemic as an excuse for not delivering a plan is a double slap in the face to the Indigenous women who are facing even greater risk of violence because of the confinement? Thank you.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. The government understands the frustration and the pain felt by those who experienced and who have lost loved ones in this, and who are still waiting for the action plan, but, senator, respectfully it’s really not quite accurate nor, dare I say, fair to imply that the government is using the crisis to delay.

The government remains committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. I’ve been advised that the government and Indigenous organizations, provincial and territorial governments, continue to work together, as they committed to do, to co-develop a national action plan that will set a clear roadmap to end these systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, LGBTQ2 and two-spirit people.

Because of the crisis, they have not given up the work. Their meetings are virtual, as so many of ours are. But this has provided some really unavoidable engagement challenges in this process. My understanding is this is why the work has just not progressed as quickly as all the parties, I’m sure, hope.

Indeed, during these difficult times, leadership within communities and the governments are focusing to limit the spread of the outbreak of the pandemic in the communities, and to provide the necessary measures to provide support for the communities during this dislocating time. But the work remains a priority and shall continue.

Senator Dalphond: I think Senator Lovelace Nicholas was anticipating that answer because her supplementary question is the following.

When are we going to see an action plan from this government on that very issue of violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people?

Senator Gold: It’s a fair question. As I said, the government understands the importance, the urgency and the frustration of this.

This is a national action plan that needs to be co-developed. It is being co-developed with the federal government and its counterparts and Indigenous leadership and communities and provincial and territorial.

When all of the stakeholders, of which the federal government is one, are able to finish their work and are able to know the date, that date will be released. I’m not in a position to know that date nor to provide it at this juncture. Thank you.

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