Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Native Women's Association of Canada - Part 1

By Trudie Broderick, 1st year MDP student
I began my placement with the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) on 5 May 2014. This was an area of human rights that I have never worked before so I was looking forward to adding to my skills set, however I definitely felt some nerves.

During my first month I spent a great deal of time building my knowledge base on human rights mechanisms available to First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls in Canada. I primarily focused on the limitations of Canada’s current legislative frameworks in protecting Aboriginal women and girls who have been or are being trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. 

It became apparent to me very quickly that if current legislative mechanisms fell well short of protecting women from sexual exploitation in general, then they would be completely inadequate in protecting Aboriginal women and girls from the world of human trafficking.  It also became apparent that where the law failed to protect those vulnerable to sexual exploitation, limitations would also be placed on the availability of resources to services essential to the needs of the women and girls who depend on them.

Trudie (L), Jenna Mayes (C), Isabel Kanz (R) on Parliament Hill, Ottawa

On May 14, 2014, the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya had been released.  The Report urged the Canadian government to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into the alarming numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

On May 16, 2014 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) released their National Operational Overview which details the implementation of a national strategy.  Its purpose is to combat human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and to better support the needs of the most vulnerable. 

The lessons learned from my time with NWAC are strongly suggestive of a multi-pronged approach to combatting violence and sexual exploitation of Aboriginal women and girls. Such an approach requires legislative change, community education, appropriate service delivery models and realistic exit strategies for women and girls who have been or are being exploited sexually. 

Regardless of the ongoing political and legal debates that occur within the four walls of parliament, there are 1,181 families who have lost a pertinent part of their lives. It seems a little too easy to forget that this rising figure has a human value. 

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