MLA Leonard spoke about Reconciliation and Working with Indigenous Communities in the Legislature

Today, MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard spoke about Reconciliation and working with Indigenous Communities in the Legislature. You can watch the video here, or read the transcript below.

 It is a privilege to rise today in support of the motion of the member from North Vancouver–Lonsdale for this House to support reconciliation and the ongoing process of working with Indigenous communities to end discrimination, to uphold human rights and ensure greater justice and fairness for all.

Today begins 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. As a white woman of some privilege, I cannot pretend to fully appreciate my Indigenous sisters’ experiences of racist woman-hating, the generations of injustices they’ve suffered or of the violence to which they continue to be subjected. But I am eager to be part of the change that has been a long time coming, to make way for and attend to the hard work we all need to be a part of for true and lasting reconciliation, to acknowledge and face those past injustices, to help heal the hurt, to build understanding and to embrace each other as equals with the same human rights and the same access to the standard of living that all British Columbians should enjoy.

This is the path forward, which our government’s bill on the declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples provides. Article 22.2 of the UN declaration reads: “States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”

Call to action 41 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused on the need for an inquiry into the causes and remedies for the disproportionate victimization of Indigenous women and girls, investigating those missing and murdered and the links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools.

In June 2019, the final report on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was delivered with calls for justice to governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians. Altogether, the commission and inquiry witnessed over 9,000 individuals and families who, with incredible courage and perseverance, shared their painful stories and their journeys to seek justice and healing.

The missing and murdered inquiry reported the families and survivors’ voices and collectively revealed multigenerational and cross-intergenerational trauma and marginalization under the weight of poverty and barriers to a better life.

Work has now begun with the poverty reduction strategy, called TogetherBC. You’ve heard about housing and education. We’re increasing opportunities for Indigenous men, women and diverse-gendered people to get the skills training they need to take on a career path. We’re working to provide a supportive cultural context in all that government does. We’ve returned the Human Rights Commission to British Columbia. We know there is still so much more to do.

The missing and murdered inquiry also highlighted how non-Indigenous colonialist policies displaced Indigenous women from their traditional roles and took away the privilege of their status, leaving them vulnerable to violence. Here are the most disturbing statistics that show just how vulnerable to violence Indigenous women are. They are 3½ times more likely than non-Indigenous women to experience violence. The homicide rate is seven times higher.

In response, a missing and murdered inquiry recommendation was to increase safe transportation services on the deadly Highway of Tears. Check. Another recommendation was to raise greater public awareness of the violence. There have been a number of profoundly moving grassroots projects that have touched the hearts of people in my constituency.

Carla Voyageur and Jeannine Lindsay’s Lil’ Red Dress Project is the latest. They watched as a non-Indigenous family raised billboard signs for their missing daughter, a campaign not realizable by most Indigenous families. So volunteers bead little-red-dress pins and earrings to raise funds for them. Amanda Crocker expressed how she and her sister, Jenna, are grateful to be able to make those pins. It’s something they can do in the face of this monumental tragedy.

Reconciliation belongs to all of us. Working with Indigenous communities, we will end the discrimination, uphold human rights and ensure greater justice and fairness for all. Time marches forward, and so shall we.