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Why MMIWG Inquiry Report Calls For A National Basic Income

Why MMIWG Inquiry Report Calls For A National Basic Income
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a copy of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report at a ceremony in Gatineau, Que., on June 3, 2019.

Cee-Jai got used to violence when she was young, first witnessing it when she was just a baby in the crib.

Her sisters murder in Vancouvers Downtown Eastside in 1992 was just one incident in a long string of violence throughout her life, she told the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Growing up, Cee-Jai, who is identified by her first name in the inquirys final report, got used to being sexually and physically abused. She said that she learned not to speak up because when she did, her cries for help were never answered.

I learnt how to be afraid at such a young age.Cee-Jai, witness, National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Men took advantage of her mothers poverty and addiction to alcohol a result of years in residential school to abuse her and her relatives.

I learnt how to be afraid at such a young age, Cee-Jais testimony in the report reads. I remember my mom, being a single mother, she would have boyfriends. And they werent very nice men that came into our home.

Cee-Jais story shows that Indigenous womens safety is threatened in ways that include, but go far beyond, a single act of physical violence, the report says. And so addressing violence must take into account the long-term, multi-faceted ways that Indigenous women are denied security throughout their lives.

The inquirys commissioners gathered testimony from more than 2,300 people, survivors of violence and family members of women who were murdered or went missing, across the country for two years. The inescapable conclusion is that Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ people have experienced genocide , the final report said.

One of the reports calls for justice, or recommendations, is that Canada establish a guaranteed annual liveable income, sometimes called basic income or minimum income, for everyone in the country.

Guaranteed annual income is a fixed income that citizens receive from the government.

The idea has been around for decades a guaranteed income for single mothers was recommended by Canadas Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1970 but it has gained major momentum in recent years. Businessmen like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have said they support the concept and countries around the world have started experimenting with guaranteed incomes.

Ontarios former Liberal government set up a basic income trial in 2017, but Premier Doug Fords Progressive Conservatives cancelled the research project when they came to power.

Economic insecurity plays a huge role in the violence that Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ people face in Canada, one of the national inquirys commissioners told HuffPost Canada in an interview.

It was pretty much everywhere in the country that we heard about how poverty and economic insecurity played a role in the violence, commissioner Qajaq Robinson said.

Commissioners heard from women who stayed with violent partners because they couldnt afford to leave or get other housing, Robinson said. They heard from women who didnt report violence because they relied on the perpetrator for income and from women who did sex work because it was their only way to survive.

We heard about those types of situations across the country, either it leading towards violence or gang involvement, sex work or staying within violent situations to keep a roof over their heads, Robinson said.

We also heard about it in the context of the economic opportunities of a community as a whole.

Poverty is a root cause of violence against women, Robinson said, but its also part of Canadas ongoing violence towards Indigenous people.

Canada put many reserves in areas where there is no economic potential on purpose, she said. And historically, laws stopped Indigenous farmers and artisans making money off their goods.

She noted that many remote communities have no economic opportunity or the only option is in resource extraction industries, like mining. There are reserves in the Prairies that were put in marshy areas where agriculture would never be viable.

Some communities are economically destitute by design.

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Commissioner Qajaq Robinson speaks during a ceremony marking the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report in Gatineau, Que. on June 3, 2019.

It also used to be illegal for Indigenous people to sell goods that could have made them economically independent, Robinson said.

A section of the Indian Act, which was amended in 1951, outlawed the sale of any agriculture goods grown on reserves and restricted the sale of animals and furs.

We have to recognize that the creation of poverty ... is part of the state violence, Robinson said. Its not accidental.

A guaranteed annual income would be a chance to move out of survival mode and live a life of dignity, Robinson said.

We have to recognize that the creation of poverty ... is part of the state violence. Its not accidental.Qajaq Robinson

It would allow space to breathe.

Robinson said that time will tell if politicians make a serious effort to enact the reports calls for justice.

But she said she is certain that Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people, the Indigenous community as a whole, and other conscientious Canadians will not let politicians forget the report and how much work still needs to be done.
Read more on The Huffington Post
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