Section 219 (1) of the Criminal Code states that “everyone is criminally negligent who a) in doing anything or, b) in omitting to do anything that is his duty to, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons”. Section 220 of the Criminal Code states that, “every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable”. In regards to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the Government of Canada is guilty of criminal negligence causing death.
On February 26th, amidst the national roundtable that took place on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, a study was released detailing the lack of action taken by the Government of Canada over the past two decades. Researchers with the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women reviewed 58 reports on violence against Indigenous women and girls. The documents reviewed included government studies, reports by international human rights bodies, and published research of Indigenous women’s organizations. Over 700 recommendations were made by these reports yet only a few of these recommendations have ever been fully implemented.
These recommendations were made to reduce the violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls. Their purpose was to address the high numbers of Indigenous women that are murdered and missing in Canada. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs asked, “How many Indigenous women and girls would have been found or would still be alive if governments had acted on more of these recommendations?” I think a lot of us are asking the same question.
By not implementing any of the recommendations, the Government of Canada has been criminally negligent, as defined by the Criminal Code. A government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and failing to act on recommendations to reduce violence against Indigenous women shows a reckless disregard for the lives of others. The Government of Canada is fully aware of number of Indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing. They are aware these numbers continue to rise and that not addressing the issue would result in more Indigenous women being murdered. Therefore, the Government of Canada has been criminally negligent and that negligence has caused death.
This study further shows why a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is needed in Canada. A government who has refused to implement over 700 recommendations and then has the audacity to claim these reports as reasons for why we do not need an inquiry has no business defining the problem, claiming to not play a role in the problem and certainly does not possess a viable solution for the problem.
Photo from: Amnesty International Canada