Grand council chief says MMIWG action plan should not be delayed

Grand Council Chief Glen Hare

M’CHIGEENG – The long awaited Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) action plan should not be delayed any further, says Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare, who also says, on another issue, that more focus needs to be paid to drug use in not only First Nations but all communities.

“You know it is unfortunate that the federal government has decided to delay the release of the MMIWG action plan,” Grand Council Chief Hare told the Recorder last week. “Yes, we are all having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but other parts of the country have moved on issues in spite of COVID-19. We need to keep the awareness going, especially during the pandemic. Social issues like violence against women, children and families; the focus has to keep going forward.”

“We all appreciate opportunity that First Nation leadership has had to be at the table with Ontario/Canada at the table to deal with COVID-19,” said Grand Council Chief Hare. “And we all need to recognize the awesome job front-line workers have been doing. And when the government floats money in areas dealing with COVID-19, they need to float some of these funds to front-line workers. In my district there has been two cases of people overdosing in the past week from hard drugs. If drugs that are getting into communities are laced with harder type drugs, this needs to be focused on to find a solution to the problem,” he stated.

“I think as leaders we all need to focus on issues such as the drug concerns just as heavy as we are on the COVID-19 pandemic. There are fallouts. These are the facts. Let’s not be scared to talk about the problems; stronger drugs are starting to come to our communities. The focus on this concern should not stop because of COVID-19.”

Alvin Fiddler, grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, indicated he’s disappointed at the federal government’s decision to delay the release of the MMIWG action plan. He pointed out in a news conference last Wednesday that it’s been a year since a comprehensive 1,200-page MMIWG report was tabled, noting that after the initial attention the report received, it has been put on the backburner in recent months. 

He said this has led to horrendous consequences in many instances, many of those leading to tragic outcomes. 

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated some of these factors,” he said in a statement.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett told the Canadian Press that the pandemic has made it impossible to deliver on an earlier promise to present the action plan next month. “We know it’s urgent and people are impatient but I think we also know that, and what we’ve been finding over these last months, it is often the same people on the front lines of COVID-19 who are on the front lines of keeping Indigenous women and girls and their families safe.”

The report addressed a number of areas of concern, including food security, more funding for women’s shelters and overcrowding. The action plan was the most pressing of the recommendations. 

Minister Bennett told CP she could not give a new timeline for the plan’s release, but said the government is committed to getting this done and having a quality plan that will address the issues that the families and survivors have identified.