“This is not a national action plan,” Pamela Palmater, chair in Indigenous governance at Ryerson University in Toronto told CBC News.
The plan, co-developed between federal and provincial governments, the National Families and Survivors Circle and several Indigenous partners, was released Thursday, the second anniversary of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The inquiry concluded that the violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls amounts to genocide and made 231 recommendations, or “calls for justice,” including one for a national action plan to be developed.
The 113-page plan is described as an “evergreen” living document and a first step. It includes 23 short-term priorities to start within the next one to three years such as public awareness campaigns, a nationwide emergency number and a national task force to review and re-investigate unresolved files of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people.
The federal government’s role in the plan was also released in a separate 30-page document.
Palmater was one of advocates who expressed concerns at a virtual news conference on Thursday. She said using the word “evergreen” signifies the lack of a plan.
“That is a real disservice to Indigenous women and girls across this country to basically say that genocide is going to continue for a while until we can figure out an actual plan,” she said.
For others, the number of actions and timeframe identified is not enough.
“Justice delayed is still justice denied,” said Neskonlith Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
“We can’t wait three years for some of these priorities to be handed down. Since the national inquiry, hundreds of women have gone missing and murdered.”
WATCH | Prime minister on the release of the national action plan:
The women who spoke at the news conference expressed concern about the exclusion of a number of Indigenous groups working directly with families and survivors, including the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in B.C.
“I’m very disappointed in how the federal government has conducted this,” said Wilson.
“It should have been more open, more transparent, more easy for groups to be a part of this but again we’re looking from outside in and hoping that a plan is going to be meaningful and substantive.”
Earlier this week, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) announced that it had stepped away from the process, calling it “toxic and dysfunctional.”
The Ontario Native Women’s Association and Quebec Native Women were excluded from the process, despite numerous requests to government officials to join.
“We never had any input,” said Mary Hannaburg, vice-president of Quebec Native Women.
“Our representation is not there. The needs of our grassroots women are not there.”
However, the women speaking at the news conference said it is important to differentiate between the work done by families and advocates that contributed to the action plan and the government’s actions.
“None of these families and advocates are responsible for genocide,” said Palmater.
“Canada is the one that needs to stand up and say ‘We are responsible for historic and ongoing genocide. Here’s the ways in which we’re responsible and here are the steps that we are going to take for our part to end this.'”