By Shari Narine - Windspeaker
The federal government has balked at the push to secure a commitment of a national inquiry into murdered and missing women, and the chance to learn more about the violence that surrounds Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. But the United Nations is tackling the issue head on.
“This year, our new topic is murdered and missing Aboriginal women. It is our upcoming assignment and we will be looking at it globally,” said Chief Wilton Littlechild, who was recently appointed president/rapporteur to the UN’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He has served on EMRIP since 2011.
EMRIP, which meets in Geneva, provides the UN Human Rights Council with thematic advice in the form of studies and research on the rights of Indigenous peoples. Last year, EMRIP presented recommendations on four “very important agenda issues,” said Littlechild: The planning of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; the rights of Indigenous people to participate in decision-making; the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of Indigenous peoples; and the undertaking of a questionnaire to seek the views of the UN members on best practices regarding possible appropriate measures and implementation strategies to attain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Expert witnesses will be called on to look into the barriers Aboriginal women face in the justice system, from investigations to the courts to incarceration.
“These issues I’m familiar with (nationally and) I can deal with from a global perspective,” Littlechild said.
He emphasizes that his focus will be on more than what is happening in Canada. Littlechild, who also serves as commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will hear from expert witnesses ranging from Indigenous peoples to academics in his coverage area of North America, western Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
EMRIP will make recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council based on the information it gathers.
But the Canadian government isn’t looking for similar guidance from its Aboriginal groups.