Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

COVID-19 magnified systemic discrimination against Indigenous women: Bennett

Bennett said Canada’s colonial legacy has played a role in worse outcomes for Indigenous women

COVID-19 has magnified the effects of systemic discrimination against Indigenous women in Canada, said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett at a virtual summit the federal government organized to discuss a feminist response to the pandemic.

Bennett said Canada’s colonial legacy has played a role in worse outcomes for Indigenous women.

She said that includes more layoffs, a lack of child care and a spike in family violence.

“We know that equality cannot be achieved by simply ensuring everyone has the same opportunities,” she said.

“We speak of income gaps between men and women, but those gaps exist between different demographics of women as well. That’s why any economic recovery plan for women must consider different lenses and perspectives in Canada.”

Odelle Pike, president of the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network, says having to remain isolated and apart from extended families has affected Indigenous women’s physical, mental and spiritual health.

She said resources to deal with mental-health problems are limited, since many Indigenous communities are small and remote.

“We do use a lot of our traditional ways of healing, like sharing circles, talking circles, healing circles and support circles,” she said.

Pike said violence against women, especially domestic violence, has intensified since the pandemic by about 60 per cent, and many women don’t feel safe to report being physically abused to the RCMP.

“We have about 80 per cent of Indigenous people in our area. … We have no safe houses for women to go to. Our closest safe house is three hours away,” she said.

“We had women refusing to go to the larger centres for cancer treatment because they didn’t have money for rent or for transportation.”

Bennett said the government is working on a plan to address the gender pay gap that contributes to women’s poverty and health concerns and raises barriers to leaving abusive relationships.

“We want to see a truly intersectional recovery for Indigenous women in this country,” she said.

Middle-Class Prosperity Minister Mona Fortier announced Monday a women-only task force to help advise policy-makers on the economic recovery ahead of the spring budget.

The former chief executive officer of Indspire, Canada’s largest Indigenous-led charity, said the government’s commitments are good but real action is needed.

“I’m going to look carefully at the mandate to see where the action and intervention points are,” Roberta Jamieson said during the virtual summit.

“When are we going to deliver in a timely fashion?”

She said although the government promised back in 2015 that all long-term drinking water advisories for Indigenous communities would be lifted by the end of this month, at least 40 Indigenous communities still don’t have safe drinking water.

“I don’t think ‘building back better’ cuts it, frankly, because that phrase assumes that the status quo was OK. Well, you won’t find any Indigenous community who think that,” she said.

“We’ve got to get not the band aids, no more studies. We got to get to the structural and systemic inequality that the majority, that are women, are bearing the brunt of in our communities.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynaecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Essie Boelema, a 17-year-old lavender farmer, is passionate about the plant. (Screenshot/Special to The Star)
VIDEO: Langley lavender growers say season soon to be in full bloom

Family-owned farm marks five years by preparing for a summer of sales, tours, and growth

Mounties say they “corralled” four Ford Mustangs April 4 after an officer saw the muscle cars racing down 184 Street near 53 Avenue at about 10 p.m. (File Photo)
Mounties impound four Mustangs

Surrey RCMP say they seized four cars for street racing

Work was underway on the interior of the new Tennis Centre location in Langley. Popularity of the sport has risen during the pandemic (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Tennis business expands into Langley

‘Busiest we’ve ever been’ says manager

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

Most Read