Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Murray Chatlain is hopeful the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women brings positive change. Register file photo

Coalition looking for ‘positive changes’

By 
  • June 5, 2019

OTTAWA -- A “significant” piece of the path toward reconciliation has been completed with the release of the report of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, says Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas.

The archbishop co-chairs the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle, a Catholic coalition working towards reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Indigenous people. It includes the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Catholic Religious Conference (CRC), Development and Peace/Caritas Canada.

“We’re hopeful it brings up some positive changes,” said Chatlain. “We see it as a significant piece in our own commitment to support the positive parts.

“The report is not a little thing, but we intend to go through what we can and decide what’s an appropriate response.” 

The massive report of two volumes, released June 3, includes 231 Calls to Justice, patterned after the 94 Calls to Action called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Indian Residential Schools.

The recommendations include funding for violence prevention, establishing a national Indigenous ombudsperson, guaranteeing a livable income and changes to the justice system and policing.

However, unlike the TRC Calls to Action, there are none directed specifically at the churches, though the document does refer to missionaries operating under the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullus among colonialist policies aimed at removing the land of Indigenous Peoples and stripping them of their cultural identity, and in many instances, their lives.

“Despite their different circumstances and backgrounds, all of the missing and murdered are connected by economic, social and political marginalization, racism and misogyny woven into the fabric of Canadian society,” said the Inquiry’s Chief Commissioner Marion Buller in a news release. “The hard truth is that we live in a country whose laws and institutions perpetuate violations of fundamental rights, amounting to a genocide against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”   

The document says colonialization imposed patriarchy on Indigenous peoples.

Chatlain did not comment on the inquiry’s use of the word “genocide.” However, he acknowledged the much higher rate of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls. According to Statistics Canada, they are 12 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to experience violence, the report says, and seven times more likely to be murdered.

“Personally, as archbishop of a diocese that includes many Indigenous communities, with virtually all having missing or murdered women, I’ve prayed at the sites where they have gone missing or been buried,” Chatlain said.

The CCCB is not ready to comment on the report. 

"While the CCCB has received the report, a period of study of the document will be undertaken by various commissions and committees from which reflections, and possible recommendations, may be brought forward to the Conference for consideration," said an e-mail statement from the CCCB General Secretariat in Ottawa.

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