By: Julianna McDermott
Over 500 Canadians have disappeared or have been murdered in the past 30 years.
Police perform lax investigations into their cases.
They attract little to no attention.
The national homicide clearance rate is over 80 per cent, but only half of these cases have been cleared.
So, why are these cases brushed aside?
The answer is simple and one that shames and disgusts me as a Canadian citizen.
The victims involved in these cases are women. The women are aboriginal.
Sisters in Spirit vigils
Thousands gathered at Sisters in Spirit vigils across Canada on Oct. 4 to commemorate the lives of these missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.
Women circle a table dressed in a white cloth freckled with candy kisses and tea light candles at the Native Women’s Resource Centre, 191 Gerrard St. E, Toronto.
They clench their eyes and rock to the beat of drums, gripped by the chilling chants that flood the room. Periodically, one breaks from the circle to light a candle.
They share tears, stories of lost loved ones, and call on the federal government to take further measures to stop violence against aboriginal women.
The facts on violence
Aboriginal women experience violence at significantly higher rates than non-aboriginal women do in Canada.
At least three quarters of aboriginal women have been victims of family violence, according to a Health Canada report. The mortality rate from violence is three times higher for aboriginal women than non-aboriginal women.
Twenty-five per cent of aboriginal people also claim that sexual abuse is a problem in their community, according to Statistics Canada.
This violence increases their chances of developing physical and mental health problems, behavioural problems resulting in imprisonment and becoming involved in the sex trade.
Here, they are vulnerable to additional violence, the violence that leads to their disappearance and death.
Violence rooted in the past
The fact that…
1. these and countless other reports and statistics exist outlining the violence aboriginal women endure,
2. there are hundreds of documented cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women resulting from this violence, and yet
3. the Canadian government still fails to intervene and take action to end this violence
…proves that this is an incontestable case of discrimination on the part of the Canadian government.
If these missing and murdered women were Caucasian and positioned at a higher rung on the socio-economic ladder, there is no question that their cases would attract instant attention.
However, the government’s lack of compassion should come as no surprise.
The Canadian government has abused and disregarded Aboriginal Peoples’ rights, since the age of colonialism.
They have developed countless systems aimed at assimilating aboriginals into mainstream society (the Indian Act and the residential school system to name a few), the affects of which have been beyond detrimental.
They introduced the patriarchal views that transformed aboriginal women from respected members of their societies who held prominent positions of authority, to mere objects subject to violence.
Today, aboriginals spill out of reserves onto urban streets and into prisons and child welfare. The inauspicious conditions on many reserves resemble those of third world countries, without proper drinking water, housing, schooling and few employment opportunities.
These are just a few of the issues the Canadian government must tackle, in order to end violence against aboriginal women. They must sew the wounds they tore into the hearts of these nations years ago. To do otherwise is to sanction the murder and disappearance of hundreds of more women.
How many women must die or disappear? How many families must mourn the loss of a daughter, a mother, a sister, a friend? How many vigils must they hold before their government hears their voices, listens and takes action?
The Canadian government’s blatant display of discrimination towards Aboriginal People is and will remain an obtrusive scar on the reputation and image of a country that prides itself on being a leader on human rights issues.
For more information, explore the following links:
Sisters in spirit