Statement by Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women

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Hon. Patty Hajdu: Well, thank you, Minister Wilson-Raybould and Elder Commanda for your remarks. I want to echo Minister Wilson-Raybould's comments and express my full support for this incredibly important process. Addressing and preventing violence against indigenous women and girls is a priority for the government, and today's announcement represents a call to galvanizing action. It's a call to acknowledge that this is an issue for all Canadians, one that touches us all, no matter what our socioeconomic status, our gender, our culture or our religion. And it's an issue that all Canadians need to stand up for. It's a call to replace the rhetoric with effective and comprehensive solutions and it's a call to ensure that we're doing all we can to prevent future injustices.

And as Minister Wilson-Raybould noted, indigenous women are over represented as victims of homicide. They represent only four percent of the female population and yet represent 16 percent of all murdered women in Canada.

Over the years, many studies have attempted to explain these disparities. Some have linked this violence to the long-term impacts of racism, sexism, colonialism and the devastating impacts of residential schools on indigenous men, women and communities. A range of socioeconomic and health challenges that include poverty, unemployment, lack of safe transportation, mental health and substance use issues also contribute and compound the problem. Indigenous women continue to live in poorer socioeconomic conditions than non-indigenous women, which means that they're at a heightened risk of experiencing violence. The phrase borrowed from oppressed communities across the world, Nothing about us without us, reminds us that this process must be culturally appropriate, inclusive and respectful to truly reflect the realities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls. But because this issue is complex, we must be open to a flexible process that includes all voices.

That's why family members and loved ones of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls will be at the centre of this process. National Aboriginal organizations, provinces and territories and indigenous women's organizations, along with representatives from a range of frontline service workers will also be essential voices. We will make sure that they can be heard.

In my experience working with frontline organizations and with people experiencing homelessness, I know that those who work with the frontline those who work with people suffering through violence and discrimination serve as witnesses to the daily trauma that many experience. Their perspectives will be critical in shaping our understanding of the issues and of what victims and survivors will need throughout this process.

I also want to acknowledge that provinces and territories have already undertaken a number of important activities to raise awareness, address violence and support victims and their families. Today's announcements will help build on the success of those initiatives.

I look forward to a meaningful and productive dialogue that helps us to move past this dark chapter and end this tragedy. We will listen, and we will give a voice to those who have been silenced.

Minister Bennett will now provide some further details about the engagements process. We must get this right. Thank you.

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