Dene MMIWG response: ‘We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t solve this?’
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya demanded “no more talking” as he welcomed the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
The inquiry’s final report, published on Monday, documented a genocide of Indigenous people and made 231 recommendations for action.
Addressing reporters on Friday, Yakeleya urged Ottawa to produce “a plan that’s measurable” for each of those recommendations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a national action plan will be forthcoming.
“How come we could put a man on the moon but we can’t solve this issue?” Yakeleya asked. “What’s stopping us?
“Hopefully these recommendations will change our relationship with Canada but, more so, our relationships with our young women who are going missing. Why?
“For the Dene, we take this very seriously.”
Yakeleya urged Indigenous northerners to “ask hard questions” of their politicians, particularly those heading into an election season.
Both territorial and federal elections are scheduled for October this year.
“This is where we’re going to move and hold them accountable,” he said. “Ask the hard questions to the politicians, to the leadership of the Dene.
“What are we doing even to the federal government’s ministers who are going to go out to be re-elected? We’ve got to hold their feet to the fire.
“And we’ve got to do it in a way that gives satisfaction to the families of these beautiful people that have gone missing. So enough talk, let’s see some action.”
While he urged the federal government to begin taking concrete steps in the report’s wake, Yakeleya also said he commended the Liberal government “for initiating this where no other government would have touched it.”
Yakeleya said Dene Nation staff members are going through the report and its recommendations to work out their own priorities for action.
Among its 231 recommendations, termed “calls for justice,” the report urged long-term funding for programs to prevent violence – including lateral violence committed by one Indigenous person against another.
The report also recommended funding enhanced health and wellbeing services for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people (those who are two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual).
Further recommendations included safer transit, increased Indigenous representation on all Canadian courts, and an “annual livable income for all Canadians.”
Sara Wicks contributed reporting.