Indigenous leaders in Manitoba are expressing support for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as the final report of a three-year national inquiry was released.

The report outlines what chief commissioner Marion Buller refers to as “"important truths," such as the role Canadian laws and institutions played by violating human rights of Indigenous peoples. It called violence against First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls a form of genocide.

"I hope that knowing these truths will contribute to a better understanding of the real lives of Indigenous people and the violations of their human and Indigenous rights when they were targeted for violence," Buller writes. 

In response to the report, which contained more than 200 recommendations, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a news release that he stands with families of victims, who advocated for justice and are the reason the inquiry and report came to be.

“It is important to acknowledge the many First Nation family members and survivors from Manitoba who had the courage, strength and determination to share their painful truths with the National Inquiry,” he said. 

Dumas also spoke to the root causes of violence laid out in the report.

“This genocide has been empowered by colonial structures, evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Inuit, Métis and First Nations rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations,” he said. 

“Colonization goes beyond historic land dispossession, stolen resources and the failure to live up to Treaty obligations, but includes the denial of inherent, Aboriginal and treaty rights today,” said Pine Creek First Nation Chief Karen Batson, a member of the AMC women’s council, calling for a “fundamental shift in the relationship between First Nations and Canada” to ensure the human rights of Indigenous women and girls. 

Dumas said the AMC supports the report’s recommendation to see Canada immediately implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. 

Meantime Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc., which represents a group of First Nations from northern Manitoba, responded to the release of the report by acknowledging families, survivors and members of the Two Spirit community impacted by the issue, as well as the spirits of those who went missing or were murdered. 

“First Nation, Inuit, and Metis women, girls, and Two Spirit individuals should be given every opportunity to thrive and grow in environments that are healthy and safe,” said Settee, saying their lives matter and MKO stands with advocates working toward positive change. 

MKO will hold community events in Thompson, Man., and in Winnipeg on June 10 and 11 for those who have been impacted by MMIQG “or who want to help move the recommendations forward.”

“MKO will to work to implement recommendations but I also call on all other levels of government to do what they can,” said Settee, noting a need for sustainable, long-term funding.

‘We’re the protectors in the community’: Winnipeg’s police chief responds to report 

Winnipeg’s police chief was in Ottawa for the release of the report.

“We’re one community, and as the police, we’re the protectors in the community, and that includes everyone, including the Indigenous women and girls in our community and it was important for me to be here,” Danny Smyth, chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, told CTV News. 

Smyth said he wasn’t surprised by the language used in the final report.

“When you look at some of the harms that the Indigenous people have endured over the past 150 years, up to and including what they examined in this inquiry, it’s really not that big of a stretch to say this is a genocide,” he said 

In response to a recommendation calling on police to improve response to human trafficking, sexual exploitation and violence, Smyth said work is already underway in Winnipeg, naming organizations the Winnipeg Police Service has partnered with like Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata and Ndinawe, the Winnipeg Outreach Network and the Sexually Exploited Youth Community Coalition.

“So, I’m pleased with the relationships we have and I think that’s key for us if we’re going to improve in that area.”

When asked about criticism that cases involving Indigenous victims don’t receive the same level of attention or response, Smyth said in Winnipeg clearance rates for homicides of Indigenous women are similar to other women victims. 

He said he sees room for improvement when it comes to missing persons cases, noting travel between urban areas and remote communities plays a role. 

“It’s during that transition time, when they’re travelling, that they can sometimes be at risk and be vulnerable. And that’s an area that I think we could improve upon.” 

When it comes to how police will respond to recommendations, Smyth emphasized the importance of forming relationships with women who are leaders in the Indigenous community, listing a number who have helped educate officers in Winnipeg.