International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women — the Canadian government must take action to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women, both in Canada and abroad.

Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, also known as CEDAW. Now, almost 35 years later, a CEDAW expert committee has found Canada to have committed a “grave violation” of indigenous women’s rights by failing to thoroughly investigate and address the high levels of violence they experience.

As of May 2014, 1,181 Indigenous women were either missing or murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012; of those 1,017 were murdered, and some 164 investigations for missing Indigenous women date back to 1952. Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2010, 5,200 women were killed in Guatemala, a country with a population of 14 million. Although the political, social, and economic context is admittedly very different, women’s struggles in Canada and in Guatemala share many similarities. Here at home and around the world, many women are struggling to survive under difficult circumstances.

Land seizures and sexual violence against Indigenous women at the hands of Canadian mining companies today has been compared to the violence against Indigenous women that was perpetrated during Guatemala’s violent internal armed conflict. We believe that all Indigenous women, who have been attacked due to systemically perpetuated violence, deserve justice. We value their lives, their contributions to family and community, and their knowledge and experience and stand in solidarity with their work to defend the land that gives life.

We call on the Canadian government to act, in partnership and coordination with affected families and Indigenous grassroots organizations, to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women, both in Canada and abroad. We also call on the Canadian government to respect the rights of Indigenous women who oppose mining and other resource exploitation in their territories and to support diplomatic efforts to ensure this right is upheld. We strongly encourage Canadian Ambassador to Guatemala, Deborah Chatsis, to show support for the Sepur Zarco sexual slavery case by attending the upcoming criminal hearings slated to begin in January 2016 in Guatemala and the struggle of the 11 women of Lote Ocho who were gang raped in 2007 and whose civil case in Canada is ongoing.

All women have the right to live in dignity, free from violence, and with adequate housing and support. Today, we want to remind you that women’s rights are human rights, and we are calling on you to do better.

Write your name and address and a personal message to the letter! Demand action for indigenous women in Guatemala and Canada!


Read the full letter here.

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