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This week, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) represented the U.S. government at the fifth convening of the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls in Ottawa, Canada.

The Trilateral Working Group is a collaborative initiative among the governments of the United States, Mexico, and Canada to respond to disproportionate gender-based violence impacting Indigenous women and girls across borders. 

Haaland told Native News Online in a press call from Ontario on Wednesday that the working group brings together stakeholders and Indigenous peoples whose lives have been impacted by violence.

“Notice the title of the group is a working group,” Haaland said ‘So that means that we’re coming together to not only talk about our respective issues about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and violence against women and girls but also to work to find solutions to those issues.” 

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A 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women, or 84.3 percent, have experienced violence in their lifetime. In Canada, Indigenous women are 3.5x more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women, according to a report from the Native Women’s Association of Canada. In Mexico, the story is the same, with Indigenous women experiencing higher rates of violence and femicide than other populations.

The DOI is working with Tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, survivors, families of the missing, and all communities impacted to coordinate interagency and international collaboration to address this crisis.

Also traveling with Haaland were Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Carmen G. Cantor and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland (Bay Mills Indian Community). The group met with Canadian leadership, hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen, to discuss issues of shared importance in Indigenous communities, including truth and healing around residential and boarding schools, economic development, and combating violence.

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