Article 8 Inquiry
The Committee can initiate an inquiry “if it receives reliable information indicating grave or systematic violations by a State Party of rights set forth in the Convention”.
Undertaking an inquiry into systemic discrimination is one of the powers of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW Committee). In countries like Canada that have agreed to the be bound by the terms of both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Convention) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention, the Committee can initiate an inquiry “if it receives reliable information indicating grave or systematic violations by a State Party of rights set forth in the Convention.”
CEDAW Inquiry in Canada
In 2008, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women reviewed Canada’s 6th and 7th reports on its compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In its reports to the Committee at the time of this review, both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) brought to the attention of the Committee the murders and disappearances of hundreds of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. In its Concluding Observations, the Committee urged Canada to address this issue on an urgent basis.
Canada was asked to report back on its actions in one year, and it did so in 2010. That year, the CEDAW Committee informed Canada that it “regrets the lack of substantive progress … and the lack of measures for prevention of such cases in the future.”
In January 2011 and September 2011, FAFIA and NWAC requested the Committee to initiate an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
In December 2011, the Committee announced that it had initiated an inquiry under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol.
A report from this inquiry is expected early in 2015.
UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) comes into force
Canada ratifies CEDAW
UN Optional Protocol to CEDAW comes into force
Canada ratifies Optional Protocol to CEDAW
FAFIA draws attention to missing and murdered Aboriginal women during CEDAW Committee’s review of Canada’s compliance
The CEDAW Committee states concern about the disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women and girls. The Committee recommends Canada begin thorough investigations and examine the root causes of the violence
Canada reports back on actions it has taken in response to CEDAW recommendations. NWAC, FAFIA and others provide follow-up reports indicating Canada had taken no adequate action
CEDAW Committee concludes that their recommendations have not been implemented
FAFIA makes a formal request to the CEDAW Committee to initiate an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol
NWAC makes a formal request to the CEDAW Committee for an inquiry under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol
CEDAW Committee announces it will conduct an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls
FAFIA and NWAC request the CEDAW Committee to come to Canada to hear directly from Aboriginal women and from women’s and human rights organizations as a part of their inquiry. The letter is endorsed by over 150 organizations
CEDAW Committee comes to Canada to investigate murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls
Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Optional Protocol
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) oversees the implementation of the Convention in the states that have signed on and agreed to be bound by it. (This formal agreement is usually called ratification). Canada ratified the Convention on December 10, 1981.
The Convention requires Canada to remove all discrimination against women in law, policy and practice. It includes a number of specific rights:
- The right to equal personhood and to equal protection of the law
- The right to vote and hold public office
- The right to equal education
- The rights to work and equal pay for work of equal value
- The right to social security
- The right to safe working conditions
- The right to health care, including family planning
- The right to adequate living conditions, including adequate housing, and
- The rights to parenthood and to equal legal rights during marriage.
We require nothing less than transformation: of the relationship between Aboriginal women and girls and those who are supposed to help and protect them; between Aboriginal peoples and the government, police and justice systems; and of the way that we think about and respond to violence in Canada.Michèle Audette, President, NWAC
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is a separate supplementary document to the Convention, which not only allows the Committee to initiate an inquiry but also allows an individual or a group of individuals to submit a complaint (called a communication) to the Committee if they believe a Convention right has been violated and the complaint cannot be resolved in Canada. Canada ratified the Protocol on October 18, 2002.
So Canada has agreed to fully implement the rights in the Convention, and also agreed that Canadian women can use the procedures in the Protocol if their Convention rights are violated.
In response to a communication alleging a violation of one of these rights, the Committee can decide whether a violation of a right has occurred and, if it has, make recommendations that the state must consider and respond to.
It’s not only a Manitoba issue. It’s not a Winnipeg issue. It’s not a Regina, Saskatoon or Edmonton issue. It’s not a ‘[highway] of tears’ issue. It’s not a Pickton murders rampage-type issue. There are 1,200 murdered and missing women, for Pete’s sake.Eric Robinson, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Province of Manitoba
Inquiry Submissions & Reports
The following are the submissions that FAFIA and NWAC made to the UN CEDAW Committee regarding the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.
To join our network or if you have any questions, email Cherry Smiley at: solidarityfafia-afai.org