Friday, February 27, 2015 – Ottawa, Ontario – Inuit leaders spoke about physical violence in the home, the need for shelters and safe housing, and traditional justice today in Ottawa during the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Terry Audla, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, jointly led a delegation that included Cathy Towtongie, President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Sarah Leo, President of Nunatsiavut, and Annie Buchan, Anne Curley, Anna Marie Cartwright, Charlotte Wolfrey and Alyssa Flaherty Spence, members of the Pauktuutit board of directors.
The leaders welcomed representatives of Inuit families who have lost loved ones to violence, including Elisapee Sheutiapik, her sister Barbara Sevigny and Delilah Saunders, as well as Jeannie Nuktie, a member of the board of directors of Saturviit Inuit Women’s Association.
“It was very important to have Inuit families represented at this meeting with premiers, provincial and territorial ministers and federal ministers,” said Audla. “Collectively we brought the message that violence takes an enormous human toll in our communities and we are ready and willing to work with our provincial, federal and territorial counterparts to put in place measures that work for Inuit. This is not an Aboriginal issue, it is a Canadian Issue.”
“In preparing for these important discussions we conducted an informal survey,” said Kudloo. “The results confirmed our view that physical violence in the home is the biggest priority in Inuit communities, and the physical and mental health impacts of violence are a significant women’s health issue. Our survey results also confirm our view that colonization, the ongoing impacts of residential schools and unresolved trauma and abuse are the biggest underlying factors in current rates of violence and must be addressed as a priority.”
“We are still dealing with the effects of residential schools, predatory child sex offenders such as outside clergy and teachers, forced relocations, the slaughter of our sled dogs and other historical traumas,” said Towtongie. “Many Inuit offenders are also victims of previous physical and sexual abuse who need meaningful healing and rehabilitation supports while they are incarcerated. Many offenders suffer from mental health issues and addictions issues as a result of individual unresolved trauma that may be related to events such as suicides.”
“We have a serious issue of hidden homelessness that puts women and children in positions of extreme vulnerability and risk of physical and sexual violence,” said Leo. “Many women can be exploited and forced to stay in an abusive relationship because there is nowhere else to go. They stay for shelter and basic survival. One-quarter of Inuit children live in single-parent families, primarily headed by women, and the lack of safe and stable housing can also expose children and youth to violence and abuse.”
Delegates had the opportunity to speak to the meetings three core themes: prevention and awareness, community safety, and policing measures and justice responses. Delegates endorsed a Framework for Action to Prevent and Address Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls, which will guide the work of all parties for the coming months. Parties will evaluate their progress during a follow-up meeting to be convened in 2016.
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Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami