First nations leaders from Quebec have invited the international community to Canada to witness the release of a report looking into the province’s relationship with Indigenous peoples so the province and Canada “finally act domestically” to end discrimination and violence against Indigenous women.
A delegation of leaders are presenting to the members of the United Nations Permanent forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in New York.
Grand Chief Verna Polson began her presentation by quoting the chilling testimony of a fellow Algonquin woman’s encounter with Quebec provincial police.
“At one point they park next to me without saying a word, they push me into the back seat of a police car, then when I saw they were not taking me to the police station, I said ‘hey, don’t take me to the woods,’” said Polson, grand chief of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council.
The delegation’s mission is to put an end to the discrimination they say First Nations’ women in Quebec are facing at the hands of police.
“The conclusion to be drawn is that the system is failing Aboriginal women, who face double discrimination,” said Sharon Hunter of the Longpoint First Nation located 630 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
The delegation points to the 37 accusations Indigenous women have made against police since 2015.
They range from sexual assault and harassment, to excessive force.
Two officers were charged.
“We, Indigenous women, we are the best targets,” said Viviane Michel, president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association. “The message the state is sending is really ‘go ahead, rape us, kill us,’ because nothing will happen when it comes to the courts.”
Quebec eventually created a public inquiry, known as the Viens Commission, that is examining the relationship between Indigenous peoples and some of province’s government agencies including the police.
But the delegation told the U.N. that by not being able to lay civil or criminal responsibility, neither the Quebec nor national inquiry goes far enough in their mandates.
“Although these reports are forthcoming in the coming months, we know already that they are going to fall short in providing answers to many questions,” said Ghislain Picard, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Quebec and Labrador.
“And we know that the victims will not be satisfied by their conclusions, so that’s why we turn to the international U.N. bodies to seek remedy.”
The delegation says they want the U.N. committee to end discrimination against women and special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to come to Quebec in September to attend the tabling of the inquiry report.
As a way to ensure that the document doesn’t end up collecting dust.
“Nothing is as effective as the political coercive power of international law,” Hunter told the committee. “And the consequential fear of undermining its external reputation as an incentive for Canada to react and finally act domestically.”