The following is a media release issued June 3, 2021 by Lynn Gehl, an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe, advocate, artist, and writer living in Nogojawanong/Peterborough, Ontario. Gehl was part of a media conference of leading Indigenous women critiquing the National Action Plan.
While I am happy to learn that an intersectional lens was included as a guiding principle in the National Action Plan (NAP) released today by the federal government in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), and that it recognizes the higher rates of victimization for Indigenous women and girls who have disabilities (IWagWid), I don’t see a plan that addresses their lived reality. The reason for this, I suggest, is because, within the NAP, disability was not recognized as a significant pillar of a person’s identity where as a result their lived realities and the barriers they face were not folded into the process and the outcome. In this way the intersectional lens relied on by the NAP failed the most oppressed.
The NAP fails to mention and thus concretely address the reality that relative to the larger Canadian population, Indigenous women are 1.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to report having a disability. This higher rate should not be interpreted as the Indigenous body being inferior. Rather, this is the result of Canada’s ongoing genocide resulting in poor air and water quality, poverty and a lack of nutritious food, and poor housing. This is due to the loss of land, the corporate resource extraction industry, issues of environmental racism, the residential school system, and the ongoing and never-ending sex discrimination in the Indian Act.
Offering more data: In 2018 Statistics Canada offered two crucial data findings: First, Indigenous women with a disability are 2 times more likely than Indigenous women without a disability to report sexual assault; and, Second, Indigenous women living with a disability are 1.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous women with a disability to report sexual assault. These higher rates of disability and sexual assault can be acted upon right away. There is no need for more statistical data as the NAP suggests. This is an emergency situation.
As early as the 1981 Obstacles Report and the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, many recommendations have been put forward such as the call for accessible housing, respite funding for caregivers, screening of service providers, accessible transportation, and the elimination of jurisdictional barriers and language barriers in the province of Quebec.
IWagWid are bigger targets of sexual violence because some cannot see or hear perpetrators approach, others are unable to escape perpetrators because they are dependent on wheelchairs as their mode of transportation, where others cannot escape perpetrators because they are paralyzed and confined to their beds unable to move and defend themselves. This requires emergency action now.
Contact Information: Dr. Lynn Gehl, firstname.lastname@example.org