Mr. Chair, members of the committee and fellow witnesses, thank you for the opportunity to speak on the issue of trafficking of indigenous people.
As you are well aware, my name is Elmer St. Pierre, and I am the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
I acknowledge my presence on the traditional and unceded territory of the Mohawk people. At this time, I would like to offer a virtual tobacco tie to each and every one of you for the information that we are going to be exchanging. Thank you.
CAP represents the off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Métis and southern Inuit peoples. Today, 80% of those indigenous people live off reserve. Forty-four per cent are in urban centres across the country.
The biggest human trafficking operation in Canada's history was the residential school system. Off-reserve and non-status people are survivors of this tragic system. Residential schools never ended.
Indigenous people are 5% of the population in Canada. Fifty-two per cent of the children in foster care are indigenous. Indigenous girls face more sexual exploitation in foster care than any other group. Forty-six per cent of our youth in prison are indigenous. In some provinces, over 90% of the youth in prisons are indigenous. Forty per cent of incarcerated women are indigenous, and that number is rising. Fifty per cent of the victims of human trafficking are indigenous women. Of those, nearly one-quarter are under the age of 18.
There are pathways among foster care, prison, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Youth are ripped from their homes, more because of poverty than any other factor. They are abused in foster care. They wind up vulnerable on the streets, living with trauma and struggling to survive. They are denied education and employment. They cycle between homelessness, prison, abusive situations and trafficking and exploitation. Too often it only ends in a road of death. We need to help the boys and girls from starting on that road. We need to make sure that everyone caught in that cycle can escape it and find the healing and community they need.
The government has taken steps to work with some aboriginal organizations, but has shut out others at the same time.
Off-reserve and non-status communities are sidelined. They are denied housing funds to help give vulnerable women shelter. They are denied access to education funding to give kids a future. They are denied justice programs to open healing lodges and use alternative sentences. They are denied status as rights bearers under the indigenous child welfare legislation.
CAP's provincial-territorial organizations work to provide services in spite of being sidelined. Programs like “looking out for each other” partner with shelters in communities to give help to those at risk of going missing. They offer housing, shelter programs, homeless outreach, parenting support and health care support, but they cannot reach out to the need when they don't have the services. I would just add that these programs are run on the east coast. The “looking out for each other” program is in New Brunswick.
We offer the following calls to action. End the exclusion of off-reserve organizations from programs like housing, child welfare and justice. Support capacity building to address the multifaceted issues of the MMIWG. Support affordable, safe public transportation options to replace lost inner city bus routes. End the overrepresentation of indigenous women in corrections and prioritize treatment and community care in an indigenous-led process. Accelerate funding under the MMIWG action plan. Ensure that our off-reserve organizations can access funding for cultural, language and justice services, community safety and other essential services to keep women and girls safe.
Meegwetch. Thank you.