On December 14 2018, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) made its final submission to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
In its submission, LEAF emphasized the connection between gender inequality, the inequality of Indigenous peoples, colonialism, and violence. These intersecting forms of discrimination call for recognition of collective rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Courts should not consider the cases of individual women without acknowledging how sexism, racism, and colonialism affect their lives.
LEAF made 23 recommendations that would address shortcomings in the legal system that prevent it from adequately addressing violence against Indigenous women. For example:
- That both the individual and collective dimensions of violence against women and girls be recognized, and the Inquiry endorse the principle that securing Indigenous women’s human rights — in particular, the right to freedom from violence as defined by Indigenous women themselves — is integral to securing the rights of their Peoples as a whole.
- The term “discrimination” in section 15 of the Charter should be interpreted so that it includes systemic discrimination, in particular the systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples which has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Funding should be provided for independent legal advice and representation for sexual assault complainants and for the families of Indigenous women and children who have gone missing or been murdered.
“Violence against Indigenous women in Canada long ago reached crisis levels”, says Karen Segal, LEAF Counsel. “The time for action to end colonial, gendered violence is now. Indigenous women have a constitutional right to equality. Until they are able to live free from violence, poverty, and systemic discrimination, the promise of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms remains elusive for Indigenous women.”
- Read LEAF’s submission here
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) works to advance the substantive equality rights of women and girls through litigation, law reform, and public education. Since 1985, we have intervened in landmark cases that have advanced equality in Canada—helping to prevent violence, eliminate discrimination in the workplace, provide better maternity benefits, ensure a right to pay equity, and allow access to reproductive freedoms. For more information, please visit www.leaf.ca.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Shaun O’Brien, Executive Director and General Counsel,
Karen Segal, Counsel
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund