Two Canadian organizations issued a press release today that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada. The Committee is the UN’s main authority on women’s human rights issues. An inquiry procedure is used when the Committee believes there are very serious violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
In January and in September 2011, faced with the continuing failures of Canadian governments to take effective action in connection with the murders and disappearances, Canadian organizations requested the Committee to launch an inquiry. Canada has signed the treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which authorizes the Committee to investigate allegations of “grave or systematic” violations of the Convention by means of an inquiry.
The press release states: “Aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-Aboriginal women, and young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence. NWAC has documented the disappearances and murders of over 600 Aboriginal women and girls in Canada over about twenty years, and we believe that there may be many more. The response of law enforcement and other government officials has been slow, often dismissive of reports made by family members of missing women, uncoordinated and generally inadequate.”
The Committee’s decision was announced today by Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), and Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).