More attention needs to be brought to missing and murdered Indigenous women

A protest in Montreal to support the missing and murdered Indigenous women. Photo take by Howl Arts Collective

As of 2014, a report from the RCMP stated there were a total of 1,181 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Between 1980 and 2012 Indigenous women made up 16 per cent of all women murdered. Cases remain unsolved and murderers continue to get away with their crimes.

Even if a case gets to court, it is likely that it will be dropped due to a lack of evidence. Amnesty International released a document titled “Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Violence and Discrimination against Indigenous Women in Canada,” to raise awareness and gather statistics on the issue.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada, also known as the NWAC, provides storytelling about some missing and murdered women. The organization hopes the storytelling will allow people to both teach and learn, and by having family members tell stories, they intend to raise awareness and promote change.

One of those stories is that of Amber Redman story. She was born Jan. 30, 1986, the child of Gwenda Yuziccappi and Art Redman Sr, and was from Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation. She went missing on July 15, 2005, and her remains were found on May 5, 2008. On Dec. 12, 2008, Gilbert Bellegarde was charged with first degree murder, and on Jan. 22, 2009, Albert Bellegarde pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Redman’s story goes from her birth to her abduction. Her story is told in a way that makes it easy for readers to relate and understand that she was just a girl living her life and going through the ups and downs that everyone experiences growing up.

Although Redman’s murderers were brought to justice, not all Indigenous women victims have had their killers exposed. Many Indigenous families still have no idea what happened to their daughters, sisters, aunts and other family members. They live each day not knowing what happened to their loved one, and face the fact, that like many others, their killers are probably still walking around toady.

Tara Williamson is an Indigenous singer, songwriter and musician who is based out of Nogojiwanong (Peterborough, Ont.). There’s a powerful piece she wrote titled “Don’t Be Tricked.” It discussed how she was tricked and so are many other Indigenous peoples:

“Tricked into thinking there is something we (as individuals and communities) can do to stop this. Tricked into being alarmed every time this happens. Tricked into thinking an Inquiry will fix it.”

Williamson explains that the root of all this violence is colonialism, because everything is about holding power and dominance in the European society. She puts her foot down and decides that she does not want to be tricked anymore and others should make that decision too.

“Don’t be tricked into thinking that wearing a ribbon for a day, or signing a petition, or composing a tweet, or writing an article is going to change anything on its own”

In Dr. Leanne Simpson’s piece “Not Murdered, Not Missing: Rebelling Against Colonial Gender Violence,” she identifies white supremacy, rape culture, attack on gender, sexual identity and agency as being powerful tools of colonialism.

“This colonial strategy is clearly working. We also have more than 800 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, a mass incarceration of Indigenous men, and we do not even have statistics about violence against Indigenous Two Spirit, LGBTTQQIA and gender non-conforming people,” she wrote.

Even though Indigenous women only make up three per cent of the Canadian female population, 10 per cent of all the female homicides in Canada are Indigenous women. The Liberal government initiated a national inquiry in 2015 but two years later little work appears to have been done. Amnesty International Canada believes that in order to stop the violence against Indigenous women there needs to be a public inquiry, a national action plan,and a comprehensive collection of data. They believe that there is not one of violence against Indigenous women and not one single solution.

Simpson states that gender violence is used to remove Indigenous peoples from their land. Since there are hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, it means that the colonial strategy of removing Indigenous peoples from their land has proved to be effective.

When Indigenous women are targeted for either racial or sexual attacks, their fundamental rights become at stake, according to Amnesty International. Amnesty International offers recommendations for all levels of government, whichinclude acknowledging the seriousness of the problem, supporting research into the extent and causes of violence against Indigenous women, taking immediate action to protect women at greater risk, providing training and resources for police to make prevention of violence against Indigenous women a genuine priority, addressing the social and economic factors that lead to Indigenous women’s extreme vulnerability to violence, and ending the marginalization on Indigenous women in Canadian society.

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