International Women's Week: AFN anxious to take meaningful action on missing
and murdered Indigenous women

OTTAWA, March 8 /CNW Telbec/ - As International Women's Week begins, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and Women's Council Chair Kathleen McHugh, expressed hope that commitments made in last week's Speech from the Throne and federal budget will lead to a National Action Plan which can begin to address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

"I was encouraged by the commitment of the federal government to take steps to endorse the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes specific mention of the need for states to work with Indigenous peoples to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination," said National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. "I am further encouraged that the commitments made in the budget mean that that Indigenous women and leaders are finally being heard on this serious issue."

More than 500 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered since the 1960s. The Assembly of First Nations has joined national and international Indigenous and human rights groups in calling on governments in Canada to develop an inclusive process that will lead to a National Action Plan to address this issue. While the federal budget did not specify how it will invest the $10M dollars committed over the next two years, the AFN expressed hope that the federal government is signaling it is now ready to work toward meaningful and concrete actions that will bring clear focus, attention and resolution to this issue.

"Gaps in human rights and the justice system have allowed perpetrators to remain free and cases to remain unsolved. This is a national issue that requires a national plan to protect Indigenous women and girls," said AFN Women's Council Chair Kathleen McHugh. "We want to work toward developing a plan that will help police and the justice systems become more responsive, increase the number of shelters, improve better victim services, and launch specific programs to assist women who have been trafficked. We also need to address the social and economic gaps which trap Indigenous women in high-risk situations."

Chair McHugh added that there is also a need to improve public awareness and accountability by collecting and publishing comprehensive national statistics on rates of violent crime against Indigenous women.

The AFN and AFN Women's Council have also recommended the creation of a non-partisan joint Parliamentary committee bringing together membership and resources from existing committees including Justice, Status of Women, the Aboriginal Affairs committee and Public Safety to study the issue.

In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on member states to proclaim a day for women's rights and international peace. Following the United Nations' lead, March 8 marks International Women's Day in Canada and the beginning of International Women's week.

The week is dedicated to celebrating progress toward equality for women, to reflect on the challenges and barriers that remain, and consider future steps to achieving equality for all women, in all aspects of their lives.

The Assembly of First Nations is the National organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

The AFN Women's Council ensures the perspectives of First Nations' women are included in all AFN policy directives and activities, as well as ensuring that the AFN is an effective advocate on behalf of First Nations women.

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: For further information: Alain Garon, Bilingual Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations, (613) 292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca


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