Chief Commissioner calls for systematic change in final report

Final report asks Canada to work in partnership with Indigenous communities

Buller gave a tearful and empathetic tribute to the families and the women and girls affected (Cailyn Mocci/The Omega)

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller, stood amongst a sea of TRU community members to share the findings from the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, titled Reclaiming Power and Place on June 24.

From start to finish, the sombre report drove home the severity of the violence against Indigenous women and girls. Buller opened her presentation with a tearful acknowledgment of the spirits of the missing that this report is for.

This national inquiry was mandated to inquire into and report on the systemic, underlying and historical cause so all forms of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people and to make a recommendation to stop that violence.

The final report was a result of over two years of work by Buller and her team. Buller concluded that 1,484 family members and survivors provided testimonies, the team received 433 artistic expressions and 83 experts were consulted. During the years of work, 15 community hearing were held as well as nine Knowledge Keeper, Expert and Institutional hearings.

Buller presented findings that the community felt in their hearts. Stories of poverty, sex trafficking and violence were not uncommon for Buller’s team to hear.

“I have no choice but to sell my body, so I can feed my children and keep a roof over our heads,” stated one of many women to speak with Buller during research.

“The truth is out there, you can’t unhear it,” Buller said.

One of the overarching findings from this report, Buller reported, is the deliberate pattern of systemic human rights and Indigenous rights violations and abuse is the cause of the disappearances, murders and violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Buller strongly states that in all sense of the word, these acts of violence are genocide.

“You’re legally bound to uphold to Indigenous human rights,” Buller spoke of the Canadian government on the number of human rights violations she came across. “It’s imperative that you live up to your legal obligation.”

Buller also found her years of research that the domestic laws put in place in Canada have failed to protect Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

The final report found that this systematic violence has displaced Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA people from their traditional roles in governance and leadership leading to Indigenous governments or bands not placing their full trust in Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people and not representing their interests.

Buller urges that short-term or project-based funding models in service areas are not sustainable and continue to represent a violation of inherent rights to self-governance; a crucial requirement to properly serve and protect.

“This can no longer be a pilot project approach. This can no longer be something that’s done off the side of someone’s desk. This is a basic human right that must be funded on a permanent basis,” Buller said.

With all the research gathered, Buller and her team urge the government as well as all Canadians to protect, support and promote the safety of women, girls and 2SLGBTEQQIA people and create time and space for relationships based on respect.

Buller aims to hold governments accountable to act on the calls for action they provide and to actually implement them.

The final report broke down the calls for action into four categories; health, culture, human security and justice.

Buller found that intergenerational and multigenerational trauma negatively impacts every aspect of life and well-being. The report calls for all governments to ensure the rights to health and wellness are recognized and protected on an equitable basis.

The final report further stated that assimilationist and genocidal government laws and policies have led directly to high rates of violence. Buller asks that the governments recognize and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples to their cultures and languages as inherent rights and constitutionally protected.

Buller found that the social and economic marginalization and exclusion is a direct result of colonialism and of racist and sexist government policies, again making them tools of genocide. She urges the governments to uphold social and economic rights, allow self-determination and provide support services for sex industry workers; to name a few.

“The Canadian justice system is premised on settler-colonial society’s values, beliefs, laws and policies and fails to include Indigenous concepts of justice,” Buller states in her presentation.

Buller calls to immediately implement recommendations regarding Canada’s justice system as well as amend the Criminal Code when it comes to definitions of offences, intimate partner violence, and violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples.

Buller suggests that for this national inquiry to become an action plan, the work must be done in partnership with the Canadian government and Indigenous communities. This partnership would have to be done carefully and thoughtfully to ensure representation. 

“There are a lot of people who are not going to let this issue or report collect dust,” Buller said in response to criticism. “As a result of our report, there is a lot of international scrutiny on Canada.”