President Obama Supports Formation of North American Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls
On June 29, 2016, President Obama traveled to Ottawa for the North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS) to meet with the President of Mexico and the Canadian Prime Minister to discuss a variety of topics impacting our shared borders. Among the many commitments announced at the NALS was a trilateral commitment to address the high levels of violence against indigenous women and girls that exist across North America.
All three countries agreed that the high levels of violence endured by indigenous women and girls across the continent warrants increased attention and coordination, resulting in the formation of the new North American Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls (the Working Group). Across Canada, the United States, and Mexico, indigenous women and girls face alarmingly high levels of violence and often lack access to justice, health care, and social services.
A new report from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which was released in May 2016, found that more than 84% of Alaska Native and American Indian women had experienced some form of violence in their lifetimes. According to the researchers, of those women, 66% experienced psychological violence, 56% experienced sexual violence, 55% experienced physical violence from an intimate partner, and 49% experienced stalking.
The data in the NIJ study also show interracial violence is unacceptably common against American Indian women. The NIJ report found that, among the women who reported experiencing violence in their lifetimes, 97% of victims experienced violence by a perpetrator who was not American Indian or Alaska Native.
Coordination Is Needed to Address Challenges of Violence Across Borders
Regional coordination on the challenges presented by the incidence of this violence across borders comes at a pivotal time. According to reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, indigenous women and girls face greater risks of violence and homicide.
In recognition of this situation, the Trudeau government, in partnership with First Nations advocates, has officially launched a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Likewise, in Mexico, lethal violence against indigenous women and girls is a serious problem.
As this edition of Restoration goes to print, the Working Group plans to meet for the first time in October in Washington, D.C. Government officials from Mexico and Canada will join the U.S. government to exchange knowledge, share best practices, and improve cross-border coordination in preventing and responding to violence against indigenous women and girls.
Preparation Underway for First Working Group Meeting
In preparation for the launch of this Working Group, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) invited tribal leaders to provide input on key considerations regarding violence against Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls relevant to the objectives of the Working Group. The DOJ Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) hosted listening sessions with officials of federally recognized Indian tribes to discuss challenges presented by the U.S.- Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders in preventing and responding to this violence.