MUSIC

Tanya Tagaq: I Was Racially, Sexually Harassed In Winnipeg

10/09/2014 11:27 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST
Six Shooter
WINNIPEG - A prize-winning throat singer says she was sexually harassed and called "a sexy little Indian" while in the Manitoba capital recently.

Tanya Tagaq was in the city performing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in "Going Home Star — Truth and Reconciliation," a production about the legacy of Indian residential schools.

Tagaq said on her Twitter account that she was walking to lunch when a man started following.

"I was in Winnipeg for the ballet, walking to lunch, when a man started following me calling me a 'sexy little Indian,'" Tagaq said on her Twitter account, adding that he crudely propositioned her. "It's disgusting. I'm sick of it."

Using the hashtag MMIW for missing and murdered indigenous women, Tagaq said the harassment was "creepy and scary."

"It happens when we are alone," she wrote. "In the day or night."

Tagaq's record label, Six Shooter Records, said the Inuk singer wasn't available to comment Thursday.

The encounter resonates in Winnipeg where many are still upset and angry over the killing of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River in August. Her death, which has been ruled a homicide, sparked renewed calls for a national inquiry into almost 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has dismissed the calls and has said Fontaine's death was a crime and not a sociological phenomenon.

Tagaq has talked openly about the fear among aboriginal women and that her daughters are four times more likely to be murdered than a non-aboriginal woman.

The Inuk singer recently won the Polaris Music Prize after a performance that featured the names of some of Canada's 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women. The award is given annually to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit.

She later lamented her statement was overshadowed by her speech in which she took aim at animal welfare group PETA for opposing the Inuit seal hunt.

"I had a scrolling screen of 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women at the Polaris gala ,but people are losing their minds over seals," she tweeted last month following the award ceremony.

Her most recent tweets about being harassed in Winnipeg have prompted an outpouring of anger, sympathy and support.

"Good for you for posting about this — people need to wake and treat these incidents seriously," tweeted Julie Lamoureux. "I'm sorry this happened to you."

"We have to stick together and deal with the hopeless ignorance of such creatures when they emerge from the sewage," wrote Bill Stevens.

"This just goes to show why a #PublicInquiry is needed, and proves this is a sociological problem," tweeted a self-described Inuk activist with the Twitter handle MNISpiirit.

Others were more blunt.

"I hope he dropped down a manhole," tweeted Jack Pine.

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