The summit is being co-hosted by the Native Women's Association of Canada. Beverley Jacobs, the association's president, said the goal is to come away from this conference with an action plan that will improve the lives of aboriginal women in Canada.
"Other Canadians in this country need to understand the situation we are in and that governments need to act responsibly," said Jacobs. "I appreciate the governments that are here at this summit to address this crisis we are facing. It must be made aware to the public that the issues of violence and homelessness and extreme poverty are the result of the detrimental impacts of colonization and that aboriginal women have taken the brunt of this."
In Corner Brook for the summit are three other premiers, including British Columbia's Gordon Campbell, the Northwest Territories' Joe Handley and Nunavut's Paul Okalik. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer had intended to also come, but a flooding crisis forced him to stay home.
Jacobs said it is up to aboriginal women themselves to make sure their messages get through to government and the rest of the Canadian population. Part of that process, she added, is providing honest and straightforward advice and direction via this summit.
"We know the socioeconomic gap is getting wider and wider for aboriginal women," she said. "The crisis is growing larger and time is of the essence if we hope to save our children and grandchildren from a life of misery and despair. We know, as mothers and grandmothers, that we don't want them to grow up that way. We don't want them to grow up in violence. We want them to be happy and safe. We want to have safe communities and it's going to be up to the women to make sure that happens."
Williams, meanwhile, said he's not the only premier eager to hear what Canada's aboriginal women have to say in Corner Brook."The premiers are with you on your issues - very much so, and I hope, over the course of the next 48 hours, to learn more and get more detail," Williams said to Jacobs. "We believe in the issues. We need to make a difference. We have some huge problems across the country and it's about time the voices of aboriginal women are being heard across this country. And I guarantee you, at the end of this conference, they will be."
I think it is faboulous that the government and the premiers have made the effort to go to this event! It's a very important summit and one which I think the premiers can learn a lot from. But, I hope they actually do something with what they learn. It may be up to aboriginal women, as Jacobs says to get their message through, but it is up to all of us to listen to those voices and ensure that their advice gets headed. Let's keep pressure on our governments to do what's right for aboriginal women!