Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Tina Fontaine was a 15-year-old First Nations girl found dead in 2014.
Our government has set aside $200-million this year to end discrimination against First Nations children in our child welfare system -- and Budget 2016 committed to increasing that amount for the next five years. Next year we are investing almost $250-million to end discrimination. But putting more money into the existing system simply isn't enough.
The justice system is clearly flawed, and it proves that police officers can get away with virtually anything. Instead of serving justice to the survivors, the system is openly protecting the perpetrators. It's also troublesome to see officers from the provincial police force launch a large lawsuit against Radio-Canada. Since when is it acceptable to go after journalists for uncovering the truths that plague our society?
Indigenous women and girls are at least three times more likely to experience violence than non-indigenous women and six times more likely to be murdered. On any given day, thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and children are living in emergency shelters to escape abuse (though on-reserve shelters remain woefully underfunded).
Advocates say there are more than 1200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, but these stories seldom garner national press. And Indigenous women in the provinces report a rate of violent victimization that is about 2.5 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous women. We spoke with two Indigenous advocates and experts about what we should be talking about when it comes to sexual violence and Indigenous communities.
"If I go missing and the [Winnipeg Police Service] has not changed the behaviours I have brought to your attention, I beg of you, do not treat me as the indigenous person I am proud to be."
It keeps happening. Young, aboriginal women across Canada found dead or severely beaten. But for them, and the families of the 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women, this week's announcement of a federal government inquiry offers a rare moment to celebrate. I applaud the Liberal Government for finally recognizing that we, Indigenous women, are valued enough to make this a national issue. A lot of women have been working for many years around this issue.
The human rights landscape has changed dramatically since 1962, when the Ontario Human Rights Commission was created. There are now parallel human right institutions federally and in every province and territory, and numerous international human rights treaties to which Canada is a party. In Ontario, most people are ambivalent or simply don't know about the OHRC, its role, and its work. This is ironic because some of the issues that have captivated Ontarians in recent years clearly fall within the OHRC's jurisdiction and are issues on which the Commission has been actively engaged.
On February 12, Harper vowed to appeal a federal court ruling that would allow Muslim women to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. Speaking to the press about the matter, Harper said, "That is not the way we do things." He added that, "This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal, and I think we find that offensive." This is a classic example of opportunistic feminism, which so many white men like to make use of from time to time.
There's an epidemic in our country that our government is refusing to respond to. For Indigenous women in Canada, the idea that they might go missing is a terrifying reality. The United Nations has urged Canada to launch a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. But Harper has not been willing to act. Disappointing as the news is, it's, unfortunately, not surprising that a settler-colonial state does not value the lives of Indigenous women as much as other citizens.