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NWAC supports MRP report.

Dear Editor:

It is time to set the record straight on the Native Women's Association of Canada's (NWAC) position on Matrimonial Real Property (MRP).

NWAC does not support the application of provincial law on reserve. It does support; however, that interim measures must be put into place to address the continued human rights violations occurring to Aboriginal women and their children today. Human rights violations occur on a daily basis, especially for Aboriginal children and women who are often victims of physical and sexual abuse, sexualized and racialized violence, blatant systemic discrimination, emotional stress, poverty, suicide and murder.

You don't have to look very far to see the stories such as the "time bomb" being reported at the Northern Ontario reserve at Kashechewan where 21 young people aged nine to 23 attempted suicide in one month alone. Additionally, remember the rising number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women on Canadian streets. While appropriate MRP solutions (whether legislative or non-legislative) are in place, NWAC is asking for a moratorium on evictions on reserve as a first protective step.

On April 20, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Jim Prentice released Ministerial Representative Wendy Grant John's 500-page MRP Report with no comments coming from him on whether he supports her report or not.

NWAC totally supports her report and in fact, supports the fact that First Nations have a continued inherent right to their lands and territories. The Aboriginal women we consulted with reiterated this as well. The women themselves stated that they come from these communities and want to address these issues within their own communities. The women who provided solutions in this process are daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and granddaughters. They want the intergenerational cycle of abuse and marginalization to end. They want this to be a collective effort to bring the required change in their communities--through the creation of a responsive and comprehensive MRP process, they want to heal and come together to reclaim their way of being now more than ever.

Aboriginal leaders must remain united especially if we are to support our most vulnerable. Divisiveness makes us weak; erodes our relationships and hurts our people. It's time for serious action to stop this cycle of homelessness, poverty and violence.

I have heard of too many stories (from the Aboriginal women who we heard from during the three months of discussions with them on the MRP issues) of violent relationships and the abuse of power of elected Indian Act chiefs and councils. I know that this is not occurring in all First Nation communities, but the women we have heard from addressed these issues as a priority--loud and clear. I heard too many stories of Aboriginal women who, with their children, are forced to leave their marital home and to try to find a safe place for the family to live. Along with these facts and the facts about the brutal violence against Aboriginal women who were once missing and then found murdered, I am disgusted about the most basic of all human rights are being violated, the rights to life and the rights to safety.

Because of the historical restrictions in the Indian Act, when couples who are separating or divorcing and agree on how to deal with their matrimonial real property, they do not have a comprehensive legal framework within which they can give effect to their intentions. Where couples do not agree, there is no mechanism for resolving their disputes. Many of these couples are attending provincial courts to obtain court orders for an equal division of their assets and find out that the courts will not and cannot address the situation of the property on reserve because of jurisdictional squabbling. That's the issue that NWAC is trying to find solutions to--the fact that many women and their children are suffering because it is the women and children who are forced out of their family homes. It is the women and children who are the most affected because of the housing crises on reserve. It is the women and children who have to try to find places to stay, whether it's with their own families, in shelters (of which there are only 36 shelters on reserve) or have to move to an urban centre--mostly with no financial resources. This is where the cycle again occurs because most of these women live in poverty and end up in the most poverty-stricken areas of urban centres causing even more risk to their families.

Beverley Jacobs

President, Native Women's Association of Canada
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Title Annotation:rants and raves; Native Women's Association of Canada, Matrimonial Real Property
Author:Jacobs, Beverley
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Previous Article:Getting it all out in the open.
Next Article:MPs call for government apology.

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