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

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

The future of the Eagle Pass Lookout cabin is being discussed. (File photo)
Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Stakeholders met in 2020 to discuss the restoration, or possible removal of the cabin

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

The Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society will be expanding its offerings to seniors this year and hopes to return its Cyber Seniors program when one-to-one training is once again allowed. (Photo contributed)
Shuswap organization aims to help seniors become more cyber savvy

BC Hydro report finds seniors reluctant to use

The Salmon Arm RCMP are investigating a Saturday, April 10 gathering at Blackburn Park for provincial health order violations. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm RCMP investigating Blackburn Park rally

Police say more than 200 people in attendance

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

A dumpster was on fire behind a residential complex in downtown Penticton Tuesday afternoon. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
Dumpster fire extinguished in downtown Penticton

There has been a string of dumpster fires lately

Skogie’s Express Tunnel Wash on Anderson Way in Vernon. (Submitted photo)
Lawsuit dismissed after vehicle damaged while inside Okanagan car wash

Civil Resolution Tribunal dismisses driver’s claim following a collision inside Skogie’s car wash in Vernon

(Mayor Cindy Fortin - Peachland)
Peachland mayor declines early vaccination offer

Mayor Cindy Fortin said she wants seniors, immunocompromised individuals to get the shot first

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)
Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

Conservation officers caught three men over fishing bull trout in Kinbasket Lake. (Facebook)
B.C. men fined $1.7K for overfishing near Revelstoke, Golden

The seized fish were donated to the Golden Food Bank

A shop up on Grand Oro Road near Twin Lakes burned down on Monday. (Facebook)
Fire rips through shop in small South Okanagan town

The building was destroyed despite community efforts to fight the fire

WATCH: Conservation group releases short doc on saving South Okanagan’s ‘precious’ Sickle Point

Sickle Point, the last intact wetland near Skaha Lake, is facing the prospect of development

Most Read