Human Rights Policy Analysis

The 2021 National “Action” Plan

Action plans would be more trustworthy if they actually involved action.

Looks like Canadian governments should apply for membership with the People’s Front of Judea.

Within a short time following the horrific (yet sadly somehow unsurprising) discovery of the remains of 215 children in an unmarked burial site at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the federal government released the 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan on June 3rd, 2021 – the two-year anniversary of the release of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) final report.

Two years to release an action plan that has been heavily criticized as inadequate, to the point where the Native Women’s Association of Canada cancelled their partnership with the feds – calling it “toxic and dysfunctional” – and wrote their own action plan. But then again, this is the same government who sat on calls to action for missing and murdered Indigenous women and residential schools since 2015, and who have denied the liability of the federal government in the genocide that was in part caused by the forced enrollment of Indigenous children in residential schools.

The development of this plan was one of the 231 recommendations laid out in the 2019 MMIWG National Inquiry. It was created in partnership with federal and provincial governments, the National Family and Survivors Circle (NFSC), and working groups comprising families, survivors, community members, Indigenous governments and organizations, and activists. Its core piece is “the Path Forward, Reclaiming Power and Place”, which outlines 30 “Calls for Justice” actions that relate to the recommendations of the MMIWG inquiry. The federal budget earmarked $2.2 billion dollars for the implementation of theses recommendations, which would included spending on improvements to healthcare, policing, language, culture, and infrastructure for Indigenous Peoples.

It’s not a great sign when the first few lines of a plan make it seem like it knows that it’s incomplete, but that it’s okay because it’s acknowledging that it is. In the introduction to the actions, the plan refers to itself as “evergreen”, saying that it is a living document that is subject to change. It being evergreen is emphasized through its repetition on what seems like every other page. You end up wondering how many of the upcoming actions will actually be carried out and how many will be “changed”.

The short-term priorities on their own are not necessarily terrible – they include the creation of support groups, an emergency number, healing programs, affordable and safe/transition housing, shelters, livable incomes, improvements to child welfare, oversight bodies, a MMIWG task force to resolve cold cases, improvements to rehabilitation and incarceration (?), improvements to data collection, and more – all very good and very necessary things. But most of these actions are low hanging fruits that a) should have been addressed years ago and b) do little to address the root causes of the issues and dangers facing Indigenous women, girls, and 2S+ individuals. At no point in the document does the government hold itself accountable for systemic problems of racism and oppression. Additionally, these “short” term priorities may take up to three years to implement, during which time many cases and issues will remain unsolved.

Furthermore – and this is the most glaring issue – this is just an action plan, which basically amounts to another list of recommendations. An actual implementation plan along with medium- and long-term priorities has yet to be released, with no date listed for when it might be. Who is responsible to the short-term actions as well as the specifics, resources, and budgets for each are also not included. Once again, when faced with pressing Indigenous issues, the Canadian government has opted for clever speeches and a whole lot of talking instead of, you know… actually doing something. But they’re working on it, they promise.

This post is Part 1 of a series on Indigenous policy and issues in Canada. Coming soon: Modern Residential Schools.

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