June 3, 2020, marks the one year anniversary of the release of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) — and the federal government has postponed the release of its action plan.
“It’s the one year anniversary and not much has been done,” says Meagan Louis.
Louis is an MMIWG advocate from the Cheslatta Carrier Nation living in Vernon, B.C.
“It makes me feel like again it’s not being taken seriously and it’s not a priority for the government to address what’s happening to Indigenous people,” she says.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on June 3 that says, “the National Inquiry has shown us the way forward. We know that there is still much more to do to end the systemic gender and racial discrimination that continues today.”
The statement does not address when the national action plan will be released and does not acknowledge the term genocide, which was widely used in the report. Last month, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the action plan, which was supposed to be released by the end of June, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 3, the four former MMIWG report commissioners, Marion Buller, Michele Audette, Qajaq Robinson and Brian Eyolfson released a statement stating that they “deplore inaction on the part of some governments.”
“Due to the one year of inaction, the lack of transparency, the growing race and gender based tensions, Indigenous people’s distrust of governments, and the failure to heed the principles for change in the Final Report, we assert the need for international attention to implementation,” the statement says.
What’s happening in the Okanagan
Louis currently advocates for MMIWG in the Okanagan as that is where she lives.
“Being an advocate to me that just means spreading awareness and you know sort of encouraging other people to join our movement and join our cause and you know help us to spread the word,” she says.
“I also help organize vigils for the missing women here in the Okanagan.”
Since 2016, at least five women have gone missing in the Okanagan including Ashley Simpson, 32, Deanna Wertz, 46, Caitlin Potts, 27, Nicole Bell, 31, and Traci Genereaux, 18, according to an in-depth report by The Star Vancouver investigating their disappearances.
When asked about the number of MMIWG cases in the Okanagan region, RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey explains that the RCMP does not keep statistics, “we report crimes to Statistics Canada,” she says.
“The RCMP remains focused on resolving unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls within each of its jurisdictions, and seeking closure for families.”
While these cases in the Okanagan remain unsolved, Louis says there are things people can do.
“Talk about this woman don’t let that woman go unnoticed or forgotten.”
She wants people to take action and says it can be something as simple as sharing a picture and story of someone who is missing on Facebook, taking part in a vigil or holding your local police department accountable.
“Call the local police department or detachment where that woman went missing and ask them,” Louis says.
She continues to advocate for MMIWG because it’s something that hits close to home.
“The whole missing and murdered Indigenous women movement has been personal for me because I know people that have gone missing,” she says. “I’ve grown up my whole life hearing about stories of women that have went missing along the highway of tears.”
“I also have a cousin who is missing in Saskatchewan, her name is Danita Faith Bigeagle and she has been missing since 2007.”
When it comes to the federal government’s action plan, Louis wants more transparency.
“I would like them to tell us exactly what they’re gonna do, when they’re gonna do it. If there’s a timeline that they could stick to. I think that would sort of quell a lot of the emotions that these families of these missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada that are going through.”