Canada needs a national strategy to combat violence against indigenous women and girls, says a United Nations summary report on human rights.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted the report on the Universal Periodic Review of Canada’s human rights record, which included recommendations from several countries. The report, released in Geneva today, summarizes Canada’s UPR — a global accountability process that monitors a country’s compliance with international human rights laws. All UN member countries undergo such a review every four years. Recommendations included establishing a national centre for missing persons and unidentified remains, police task forces to investigate cases and community safe plans.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based watchdog, said the report shows the federal government has failed to adequately address the high number of murders and disappearances of aboriginals over the last four decades. “It is not surprising that violence against indigenous women and girls figured so prominently in the discussion of Canada’s human rights record,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement Tuesday. “It reflects the persistent insecurity faced by women and girls, the urgent need for a public accounting of what has gone wrong for so long, and a robust national plan for addressing it going forward.”
In response to the report, the federal government defended its record Tuesday, noting it has introduced legislation to try to ensure families on reserves have similar rights as other Canadians. “The proposed legislation will address violence against individuals living on reserve, especially Aboriginal women and their children, by allowing courts emergency protection orders to remove a violent partner from the home,” said Andrea Richer, press secretary to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt.
A scathing report released in February by Human Rights Watch accused some police officers of harshly mistreating native women and girls in northern B.C. That report contained unproven allegations by several northern B.C. women and girls who say they were abused physically or sexually by police.
In February, the federal government established an all-party committee in Canada’s House of Commons to hold hearings on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and propose solutions to address root causes of violence. Human Rights Watch said while the move is a step in the right directions, it is not a substitute for a national commission of inquiry with independent powers beyond those of a parliamentary committee.