We have not responded with enough urgency to address the crisis of MMIWG2S

Speaker: Ms. May
Time: 04/05/2022 22:49:55
Context: Debate

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Madam Chair, it is an honour to rise today toward the end of the debate. We have some time left and some more speakers, but I think this take-note debate has been one of sincerity and has been heartfelt. I think we have seen some real change in the way we are able to discuss things in this place to say and to accept the inquiry.

I remember when the inquiry came out, not quite three years ago. When the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and two-spirited inquiry first said that this is a genocide, there was a great deal of response in the media as if that might not be the case. It has been stated by members on all sides of the House today without question. That gives a sense that we have made progress in understanding the scope, scale and gravity of the issue.

I want to start by acknowledging that we are here on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe peoples. I want to just also acknowledge the territory that I am honoured to represent here in Parliament, my riding name of Saanich—Gulf Islands being a corrupted English pronunciation of WSANEC, the WSANEC nation of the Coast Salish peoples. I am deeply indebted to the peoples of our territory.

I want to also begin by saying that I will be splitting my time with the honourable and terrific member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach.

There is a lot that has been said. With the time remaining for me it would be hard to add a great deal more, but in preparing for this and whenever I think about the inquiry, I do not want to talk about statistics. I just want to say as a woman from the culture of women, recognizing the privilege of the colour of my skin, that I am so lucky. I have a bunch of great women friends, but it is only my indigenous women friends who say things casually like, “I was left for dead in a dumpster”. I hardly know any close indigenous women friends who have not had the experience of the loss of close family members, particularly in the downtown east side in Vancouver. That statement of “I was left for dead in a dumpster” was actually in the context of sitting in a circle after this report came out in Victoria with a woman who I thought I knew really well. Her anglicized name is Rose Henry. She goes by the Tsilhqot’in name now of Grandma Rosa. I had no idea that my friend Rose, as a kid, had been left for dead in a dumpster after being beaten and abused.

These experiences are not statistics. These are our friends, our mothers, our aunties and our children. The levels of abuse and casual violence against indigenous women and girls is appalling and a human rights abuse. We have not responded with the urgency that we must. We went for years, as I am sure colleagues will remember, demanding that we get an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We got the inquiry. We got the recommendations, but women and girls are still going missing on a routine basis. Indigenous women and girls are still marginalized and at risk and we have 231 calls for justice to make that not the case any more. In the time remaining for me, I want to emphasize a few of them that stand out.

Call for justice 4.5, that I have mentioned tonight in questions and comments, is a call for a guaranteed livable income that will end the marginalization and take women and girls from being in a position of great risk to being safer by the security of having enough money to not be in poverty. It is pretty straightforward.

We also know from this inquiry that women who have gone missing are quite often, through their marginalized economic status, forced to hitchhike. They do not own a car. They are not going to be getting safe and affordable ground transportation because there is none. Our ground transportation system in this country is worse than that in most developing countries. Think about that. This report came out before Greyhound withdrew service right across Canada. I talk to my Nuu-chah-nulth friends, particularly Chief Judith Sayers of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation. She has been a prominent supporter of a local bus company called Wilson’s bus lines that has been trying to stay afloat, trying to connect services. The government needs to acknowledge that we need VIA Rail to work for the marginalized.

We also need to address the huge threat of wellness checks in which indigenous women and girls die. A wellness check should not result in an inquiry and a coroner’s report. This also needs urgent attention.