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Native Women’s Association of Canada Calls on Federal Government to Protect Incarcerated Indigenous Women, Gender-Diverse People from COVID-19

(April 28, 2020, Ottawa, ON): The federal government must act quickly to protect Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people from COVID-19, says the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in federal and provincial correctional institutions, the time to act is now.

“Federal and provincial correctional institutions are COVID-19 hotspots,” says NWAC President Lorraine Whitman, due to overcrowding combined with inadequate access to proper hygiene, sanitation and personal protective equipment. “These conditions place Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people at high risk of contracting COVID-19.”

The Office of the Correctional Investigator’s February 2020 annual report highlighted the fact that this population group is especially vulnerable, as Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people are over-represented among the youth and adult populations currently in custody. It not only confirms that Indigenous women now represent 42% of the federal female prison population, but also reinforces findings by Statistics Canada that Indigenous women are being institutionalized at a much higher rate than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

NWAC is calling on the early release of Indigenous offenders: “Releasing Indigenous female offenders will reduce the gross over-incarceration of Indigenous women. This will also help to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on this vulnerable population, as well as mitigate the impact in the overall federal prison system,” says Ms. Whitman.

Additionally, because Indigenous women are disproportionately classified as medium and higher security offenders, NWAC is also urging for a reassessment of their security level. Reassessment should be done in partnership with Indigenous governments, organizations and communities. NWAC points to the independent findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, whose Calls for Justice #14.3, 14.4 and 14.5 call on an assessment of risk level that considers the Indigenous experience of colonialism and racism.

“We must protect the health and safety of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people, and to support them on their journey of healing and reintegration. I am afraid that the time to act is quickly closing,” says Ms. Whitman.

NWAC, which is the national voice of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people, is urging its members to write to their Member of Parliament.


For more information contact: Joan Weinman, joanweinman@rogers.co. 613.294.5679

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About The Native Women’s Association of Canada
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a National Indigenous Organization representing the political voice of Indigenous women, girls, transgender, Two-Spirit, and gender-diverse people in Canada, inclusive of First Nations on and off reserve, status and non-status, disenfranchised, Métis and Inuit. An aggregate of Indigenous women’s organizations from across the country, NWAC was founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of Indigenous women within their respective communities and Canada societies.

À propos de l'Association des femmes autochtones du Canada

L'Association des femmes autochtones du Canada (AFAC) est une organisation autochtone nationale qui représente la voix politique des femmes, des filles, des transgenres, des bispirituels et des personnes de sexe différent au Canada, y compris les membres des Premières nations vivant dans les réserves et hors réserve, les Indiens inscrits et non inscrits, les personnes privées de leurs droits, les Métis et les Inuits. Regroupant des organisations de femmes autochtones de tout le pays, l'AFAC a été fondée dans le but collectif d'améliorer, de promouvoir et de favoriser le bien-être social, économique, culturel et politique des femmes autochtones au sein de leurs communautés respectives et des sociétés canadiennes.