06/21/2015 09:34 EDT | Updated 06/21/2016 05:59 EDT

Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women Must Start With a Public Inquiry

FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press
Participants take part in a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, October 4, 2013 by the Native Women's Assoiciation of Canada honouring the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

As we unite on National Aboriginal Day, we reflect and celebrate the unique cultures, important contributions and the truly fundamental role First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples have played in building Canada and shaping our collective identity. It is important to use this moment to reflect on how we can move forward as a nation to create real reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, based on our shared values of compassion, cooperation and respect. It is a time to consider what kind of Canada we want to leave our children.

We must address the gap in outcomes for too many indigenous women in our country. As the Native Women's Association of Canada notes, First Nations, Métis and Inuit women are more likely to face significant barriers to attaining economic security in our country. They are more likely to live in poverty, face unemployment, lower paying jobs, or live in inadequate and unsafe housing. These inequalities touch not only women, but their entire families.‎

My heart ‎breaks at the epidemic of violence perpetrated against thousands of indigenous women and girls -- including those that have gone missing or been murdered. I find it deeply troubling, particularly as a woman and the mother of a daughter. In the past 15 years, my volunteer work for women and children's well-being, and my most recent involvement with various aboriginal women's groups, has shown me that for many communities across Canada -- indigenous and non -- the problem of violence against women and girls is not abstract. It is one that shatters lives each and every day.

This tragedy involves all Canadians but how do we start to address it? We all know the numbers. We all recognize the problem. We need next to bring it from the head to the heart. Only then can we truly move forward.

Unlike our current Prime Minister, I agree with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, as well as with leaders from other orders of government, that ending the violence must start with a national public inquiry into the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

I agree that there needs to be a full national inquiry because it reflects Canada's core values of justice and fairness. I agree because it is my responsibility as a woman to defend the rights of women everywhere. I agree because only a full national public inquiry will ensure justice for the victims, healing for the families, while at the same time providing the country with a roadmap for how to break this cycle of violence. And I support an inquiry because, as a mother, I want my daughter and my sons to grow up in a country that doesn't just speak the language of equality and justice, but exercises it, openly and truthfully.

It is vital that the values of respect, unity, empathy, and compassion inform this process. These values are a core part of my own identity, informed by my upbringing, my family, and my connection to yoga -- the latter of which makes clear that no living thing thrives or suffers in isolation from other living things, that we are all one, and that respect for all living creatures depends on the recognition of the unity of all beings.

In life, you get out what you put in. We will not fully be able to reconcile and finally end this national problem until we are all willing to open our hearts and embrace one another. This is what it means to make others' lives a part of your own. That is the Canada our children deserve: one that moves forward, united by a sense of responsibility and a generosity of spirit.


Canada's Missing Aboriginal Women