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

COVID-19 magnified systemic discrimination against Indigenous women: Bennett

OTTAWA — 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 report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021.

———

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

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

House prices in Alberta are going up in many communities, reports the ATB. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Alberta’s house prices are on the rise: ATB

Supply has been low, relative to demand

The interchange at Highway 2 and McKenzie Road at the south end of Gasoline Alley is being redesigned with two roundabouts. Construction is expected to begin this month and finish in October. (Graphic from Red Deer County)
Roudabouts coming to McKenzie Road overpass at Gasoline Alley

Project expected to improve traffic flow at busy intersections

A federal strategy to preserve threatened trout could conflict with provincial coal leases in the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. (Contributed photo by Jeff Lund).
Federal regulations could save Alberta’s bull trout by shutting down mining plans, says biologist

Ottawa’s new strategy identifies a 30-metre protected area along rivers and streams

A prairie fire in the Burnt Lake district. (Photo by Bert Fors via Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Fires of spring 1931 in central Alberta

Central Alberta has just come through a relatively warm and dry winter… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Opinion: Boris Johnson is to blame for what’s happening in Ireland

Twenty-three years of peace in Northern Ireland, after a sectarian war that… Continue reading

Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, fom left, celebrate after winning women's gold medal match against Brazil's team at the Beach Volley Worldtour Major Series, in Vienna, Austria on August 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronald Zak
Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) gets fouled by Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu throws to a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau (13) scores the game winning goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender David Rittich (33) in overtime NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Canada's Evelyne Viens celebrates scoring against Wales during the women's international friendly soccer match at Leckwith Stadium, Wales, Friday April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Potts/PA via AP
Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

Most Read