Native Women's Association of Canada (Canada)

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is an organization representing Aboriginal women in Canada with the goal to “enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies.” The group also works towards achieving equality and ending discrimination for Aboriginal women in Canada. NWAC started the “Sisters in Spirit” project in 2005, which was an initiative aimed at creating a comprehensive database of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada, with the primary goal of raising awareness about the issue, discovering the root causes of violence against Aboriginal women and restoring the memory of these missing individuals. The project ran from 2005-2010 and within this time the group recorded 582 Aboriginal women and girls who went missing or were murdered in Canada between the 1960s and 2010. Coincidentally, the Canadian government cut funding to the organization’s database in 2010, preventing them from undertaking further research. Many critics of the cut felt that it was intended to silence NWAC and its research, hindering access to information about the issues. However, the database that NWAC compiled spurred national calls for an inquiry and further attention to the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. It was instrumental in bringing the issue into the public conscience, and as the first of its kind it prompted the creation of other databases such as that of Maryanne Pearce, a PhD student at the University of Ottawa who recorded 824 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada. The database and advocacy of NWAC was also a driving force behind the RCMP’s investigation into the problem. While the RCMP initially balked at the statistics and attempted to minimize them, after widespread outcry they announced in May 2014 that the reality far exceeded what was recorded in the NWAC database: over 1000 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada over 30 years. While NWAC’s research was concluded in 2010, it has continued to exert influence on reporting on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women ever since. Their findings were instrumental in Human Rights Watch’s report on RCMP mistreatment of Aboriginal women and girls in northern British Columbia, released in February 2013. In the wake of the RCMP’s revelations about the severity of disappearances, NWAC partnered with the RCMP to develop a community education tool kit to reduce incidents of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. They have also spearheaded several other projects that continue the work and mission of Sisters in Spirit. The database, and the attention it received in the media, was crucial to amplifying the voice of these communities seeking answers about their missing daughters, wives, sisters and granddaughters. Follow NWAC on Twitter @NWAC_CA
Vox Libera Award
2014

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