Indigenous Women Forgotten by the Public Inquiry Commission Report
VAL D’OR, September 30th, 2019 – Quebec Native Women (QNW) is witnessing the tabling of the final report of the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress (commonly known as the Viens Commission). The recommendations in the QNW memoire to the Commission were aimed at securing Indigenous women, both physically and psychologically, in the justice system and in their interactions with members of the various police forces. It is clear that these recommendations were not retained and that the safety of Indigenous women was not considered a priority by the Commission.
It is necessary to remember that the Commission was set up following reports of police abuse of Indigenous women in Quebec. QNW wishes to highlight the courage of the women of Val d’Or who broke the silence and denounced police abuse. These women paid a high price for their public speaking, were personally targeted by members of the police forces they initially denounced, and were intimidated by the wearing of red armbands by Sureté du Québec police officers everywhere on the Quebec territory. Convinced that their voices should be heard, QNW supported these women in their demand for justice and in their refusal to bow to a system that abused them rather than protect them. Following the pressure of public denunciations and television reports, the Commission was born.
Noting the systemic discrimination against Indigenous people in Quebec, the Commission’s mandate was expanded to include the profiling issues that affect all Indigenous people who use provincial services. As a result, Commissioner Viens’s calls for action largely address the shortcomings of provincial public services to Indigenous people. We welcome this work and hope that finally these findings of failure will find appropriate remedies and culturally reassuring. On the other hand, it would be wrong to believe that the Commission has duly fulfilled its mandate with Inidgenous women.
QNW had asked for an investigation into police services. The expansion of the Commission’s mandate has shifted the focus of Indigenous women who have been abused by police officers and neglected by the justice system. QNW is already working on a daily basis to sensitize its members, and therefore by extension the native communities, to the problems related to sexual aggression. The responsibility to provide safe and secure access to justice for women is the responsibility of the justice system and the police. So we are back to square one: the investigation did not lead to strong calls for action on the police and the justice system in the services for Indigenous women, and the Commission omitted the necessary fundamental analysis that gave birth to its very existence.
QNW wishes to reiterate the importance of collaboration with the system in place: the implementation of calls to action must be made with Indigenous women’s organizations. We call on the Protectrice du citoyen in this regard and look forward to sharing our expertise with her in the implementation and follow-up of the Commission’s calls for action.