More than three years after the release of the 231 Calls for Justice, a local activist group says none have been accomplished
It’s been three years since the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report (MMIWG2S), and the Reconciliation Action Group says it hasn’t seen any meaningful change.
The national inquiry entitled Reclaiming Power and Place outlines 231 Calls for Justice for all levels of government, organizations, institutions, and all Canadians in general to implement.
“Local grassroots activists note that none of the 231 calls have been accomplished, leaving the families of the victims without a sense of justice,” reads a statement from the Reconciliation Action Group, which is a local group advocating for change and reconciliation.
Waiting for change
Michelle Robinson, Indigenous leader of the group, says Canada has a history of dragging its feet and not doing the necessary work, using the Kelowna Accord as an example.
The Kelowna Accord was a 10-year plan announced in late 2005 aimed at closing the gap in the standard of living between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The plan was ultimately abandoned by the federal government and went nowhere.
“If you prolong it enough, then nothing gets done, and then you can’t say you didn’t try, but they didn’t really try,” Robinson says.
Plenty of talk, but very little action
However, Robinson doesn’t see much action in the plan.
“They say these things and they have these meetings, but you don’t see budget line items, and you don’t see meaningful change,” she says.
“Policing and the justice system are major issues, yet we don’t see any commitment to changing those laws, working with the federal government, nothing like that.”
Robinson’s fellow Reconciliation Action Group member Rosemary Brown echoes the sentiments when it comes to the lack of detailed funding and timelines in the provincial plan.
“What kind of funding will be allocated? When will these things start happening? Because it’s such an urgent crisis,” Brown says.
Alberta’s Pathways to Justice
Rachelle Venne is the former co-chair of the Alberta Joint Working Group on MMIWG — which put together recommendations called 113 Pathways to Justice.
“As the joint working group was made up of Indigenous women, elders, and members of the legislative assembly, the resulting recommendations have been developed using a diverse lens and expansive scope,” Venne states in a press release.
She adds that the 113 Pathways to Justice, Premier’s Council, and MMIWG Roadmap will be a mechanism to assist with the implementation of systemic changes required to ensure the safety of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Indigenous voices at the table
Both Robinson and Brown commend the effort of the Indigenous Peoples who consulted on the provincial plan.
“It’s not very easy to sit on these committees with government and to do this work,” says Brown, pointing to Alberta’s highly-criticized draft curriculum as an example of Indigenous leaders feeling their input had been largely ignored.
Brown says she respects the work of the Indigenous members who were in the working groups for the provincial MMIWG plan.
Speaking specifically about the recommendations regarding child welfare, Brown says there are many positives but that the plan falls short.
“Many of them definitely respond to what the national inquiry report recommended. There were some specific things, though, that I felt could have been much stronger,” Brown says.
More specifics needed
Something Brown says she doesn’t see reflected in the provincial plan is the need to define the best interests of a child from an Indigenous perspective. While it may be implied in the plan, Brown feels it should be clearly articulated.
“Again, this is something that’s implicit and it’s alluded to, but a clear statement actually prohibiting the apprehension of children due to poverty, poor housing, food insecurity, etc. Because again, that goes back to the need for financial support to keep families together in the first place.”
Additionally, Brown would like to see specific funds and supports for Indigenous youth who age out of the child welfare system in Alberta and culturally appropriate and anti-racism training for childcare staff and social workers.
“Not just culturally appropriate training, but training or education on the history of the role that child welfare has played in tearing families apart, creating intergenerational trauma, etc.,” Brown says.
“The role they’ve played in the genocide of Indigenous Peoples and the systemic oppression of Indigenous Peoples.”
Brown — a white settler of Irish, English, French, and German ancestry — says it’s impossible to get at the roots of white supremacist Eurocentric attitudes and practices without addressing anti-racism, or a rigorous counter-racism training program.
Substantial and meaningful change
“Unless we start seeing substantial and meaningful change,” Robinson says she doesn’t see any good coming from the provincial plan.
“To be frank, I would love to be proven wrong.”
Robinson says she believes there is a huge double-standard when it comes to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, using the example of Calgary drivers recently blocking a roadway under a bridge during a hailstorm versus how Indigenous Peoples are treated when they protest infrastructure and Alberta’s critical infrastructure bill.
Robinson also points to denialism among some Canadians when it comes to the rediscovery of gravesites at former residential schools across the nation.
“Until regular Canadians start to see their role in this, we’re not going to see much change,” she adds.
“How can we address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit when we can’t get Canada to implement a real curriculum, educate themselves on what the actual issues are, and see how they’re part of the solution.”
How to be a good ally
Robinson encourages people to get involved in a Reconciliation Action Group.
“Lots of churches have committees, every place of work should have one. And if they don’t, then I encourage people to start their own,” she says, adding she hopes people will start doing the work to learn about the true history of Canada through various resources like podcasts, books, or articles.
“As somebody who tries to work with non-Indigenous daily, it is so painful how non-Indigenous don’t see their role as the solution and continue to perpetuate violence by being ignorant.”
Most recently, Robinson says the Reconciliation Action Group has been focusing on getting the Calgary Board of Education to rename Sir John A. Macdonald School following a successful fight to have Langevin School renamed Riverside School last year.