Experts from the UN and the Inter-American human rights systems urged Canada Monday to address the “root causes” [press release] of the extreme violence and discrimination against indigenous women and girls in the country at a meeting with Canadian Ministers for Justice, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and for the Status of Women. According to the experts, approximately 1,200 indigenous women and girls have been murdered or disappeared in the last 30 years. Canadian officials said in December that the government would be furthering a national inquiry into the crisis, and three ministers have been charged with designing the official national inquiry. The international experts insisted [CNW report] that the inquiry must be participatory, must address the root causes of the issue, and should be based on “solid appreciation that the human rights violations indigenous women experience require adequate, effective and clear responses.” Prior to the meeting, the Canadian Ministers and the experts took part in a two-day symposium at the University of Ottawa to discuss the possible framework and structure of the inquiry.
The rights of indigenous peoples have become a pressing international legal topic in the past decade. In June Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission urged [JURIST report] the government to move from “apology to action” in its policies and programs directed toward restoring the aboriginal peoples’ relationships with the rest of the country. In September 2014 the UN raised awareness for indigenous peoples [JURIST report], comprising approximately 370 million people in 90 countries around the world, and urged members of the international community to reconcile any past differences with indigenous peoples for prior rights violations and work towards open communication about the important legal issues which affect indigenous populations. In October 2013 a UN rights expert expressed similar concern for aboriginal people [JURIST report] in Canada, finding that despite the general wealth of Canada’s citizens as a whole, one in five indigenous people live in poverty, and concluding that the country faced a “crisis” at that time. In August 2013 then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged [JURIST report] states to honor treaties with indigenous peoples, regardless of how long ago they were signed, as such treaties serve to protect human rights.