On a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

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molly
On a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

A month ago, on December 9th, Rinelle Harper spoke before the Assembly of First Nations. This brave young survivor, eagle feather in hand, added her voice to the chorus of people throughout the country who have been calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. A month previously, two men had tried to add this 16-year-old from Garden Hill First Nation to the heart-wrenchingly-long list of Indigenous women in Canada who have been murdered or gone missing since 1980 – a list which the RCMP reported earlier this year as being 1,181 names long, and to which more names have since been added. More than one thousand, one hundred and eighty-one women and girls – gone. More than one thousand, one hundred and eighty-one women and girls who lived, laughed, rejoiced, struggled, persevered; who had talents, weaknesses, gifts to share, pasts that shaped them, futures to live – gone. More than one thousand, one hundred and eighty-one women and girls. Words fail me. I cannot convey the weight of the grief captured in this figure. The many faces, voices, and stories it represents.

The Canadian government has repeatedly refused to answer calls for a national inquiry. Not even two weeks after Rinelle Harper pushed for a more concerted effort to have the government start such an inquiry, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that an inquiry “isn’t really high on [the government’s] radar.” This has outraged many of us – and rightly so. But, as a non-Indigenous woman and a Canadian citizen, I am writing this as a challenge to all of us: let us not feel righteous in our outrage; let us not pat ourselves on the back for pointing fingers at the federal government. Instead, let us redirect those fingers towards ourselves, and ask ourselves what role we have to play, what we can do. The sickening, saddening, enraging rate at which Indigenous women and girls in this country face violence is alarming and unconscionable. Something must be done. A national inquiry would be but a small step in the right direction. We need to push further.

At its very root, the rate of violence against Indigenous women in this country is tied to colonial ways of relating between Canada and the Indigenous people of Turtle Island. I don’t think this is a controversial statement. Neither is it controversial to state that sexism is also at the root of this violence. The interacting forces of sexism and colonialism are killing Indigenous women and girls across this country at an alarming rate, and my tears and anger are no solution.

This violence is directly tied to Canada’s colonial history and ongoing colonial practices to which many of us are all too often blind. It is tied to our history of tearing Indigenous children away from their families and communities, placing them with White families or in institutions with the intention of stripping them of their language, culture, identity, and pride. It is tied to the childless communities left behind. It is tied to our insistent attempt to delegitimize and silence Indigenous ways of knowing and being. It is tied to the persistent underfunding of health and social services to Indigenous communities. It is tied to our delirious notion that the land of this country is here for the taking, to be exploited unreservedly. It is tied to our amnesia about our country’s own past.

Yes, a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women is needed. But no, this will not be enough. Yes, we should call on the federal government to fund such an inquiry. But no, we cannot be content with stopping there. What we need is a national conversation on settler-Indigenous relations, and it is up to us to start it. This will require more energy and conviction than it takes to call on the government to start a national inquiry. But the good news is that it does not require being high on Harper’s agenda to make it happen.

We have strayed so far from the right path of peace, friendship, and respect. These are the values that are supposed to guide settler-Indigenous relations. This path, laid out in early treaties and on-going agreements between Indigenous peoples and the British Crown, is perhaps best captured by the important concept of the Covenant Chain, and by the 1764 Treaty of Niagara. The vision painted by those three words – peace, friendship, respect – is so very different from the reality we live in today of structural inequality and denial of rights. We cannot wait for the powers-that-be to start this conversation. This is something that all of us, non-Indigenous and Indigenous alike, need to participate in. It is a conversation that movements such as Idle No More are helping to start. We all must join in. How can we live well together?

I urge us all, particularly those who are non-Indigenous like me, to remember that a conversation cannot be had without listening. I think we have a lot of listening, unlearning, and learning to do. We have a lot of visioning to do.

There are many ways to get started. You can become informed about current pressing issues nationwide through APTN news – either on TV, on their website, or on Twitter (@APTNnews). Keep an eye on public lectures by leading indigenous thinkers at your local university – there may even be a listerv you can sign up for that will send you information on such events. Take advantage of Twitter – you can follow Idle No More, Indigenous scholars, Indigenous activists, and Indigenous politicians. Embrace the diversity of views and start engaging critically with the conversations already happening. Push your comfort zone; be curious, humble, and respectful. You can turn to good old-fashioned books (authors to check out might include Marie Battiste, J.R. Miller, John Borrows, Taiaike Alfred, Michael Hart, John S. Milloy, James (Sákéj) Youngblood Henderson, to name but a few). You might even decide to organize an educational event in your community – many teach-ins were held a couple of years ago with the start of the Idle No More movement. There are so many ways to get involved in this important conversation about establishing and maintaining right relations.

In this national conversation, the voices of Elders and of those who have been most silenced should be given priority. Indigenous women and girls like Rinelle Harper should be given room to speak, not just as victims and survivors of sexualized colonial violence, but as women and girls with a vision of what the right way of relating is. “Love, kindness, respect, and forgiveness.” Those are the words Rinelle Harper asked the AFN gathering to remember a month ago.

Love, kindness, respect, forgiveness. Peace, friendship, respect. We need to revive this conversation and ensure it is no longer side-lined. It is up to us to join, with open heart and open ears, this crucial conversation. 

 

Regions: 
Pondering

Thank-you for sharing that information.

You will find no argument here.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Saskatchewan municipalities call for murdered, missing inquiry

video

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association has voted to support calls for a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Rikardo

This issue seems to be "Blame Herper" Don't the Bands and their chiefs have some responsabilty for their members?
OK to an inquiry

mmphosis
epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Amnesty International investigates murdered and missing indigenous women in B.C.

Amnesty International Canada is wrapping up a human rights investigation in northeastern B.C. and the human rights group says it's alarmed by violence against aboriginal women amidst industrial development in the region.

Investigators just wrapped up a fact finding mission in Fort St. John on Friday. Amnesty women's rights campaigner Jacqueline Hansen — who is based in Ottawa — has been meeting with as many people as she can.

She says a local aboriginal woman first alerted Amnesty to a growing list of women from the region who'd been murdered or gone missing. It includes local woman Cynthia Maas, who was taken from the streets of Prince George and murdered by convicted serial killer Cody Legebokoff.


jas

epaulo13 wrote:

Highway of Tears internal records deliberately deleted, says B.C.’s privacy commissioner

Senior B.C. government officials are deliberately frustrating public requests for information and wiping away emails with a "triple delete" procedure so no one can follow their tracks, says B.C.'s privacy commissioner.

Elizabeth Denham released a scathing report Thursday that identified abuses and disregard of freedom-of-information legislation that results in keeping sensitive records away from the prying eyes of the public, media and its critics.

"In the course of this investigation, we uncovered negligent searches for records, a failure to keep adequate email records, a failure to document searches, and the wilful destruction of records responsive to an access request," said Denham.

"Taken together, these practices threaten the integrity of access to information in British Columbia."

Here is the letter by the staffer that started the investigation.

 

quizzical

they learned a lot from the BC Rail document trail.

but then again it's the way the BC Liberals and Conservatives are. Most are lying deceitful sacks of bullying shit.

NDPP
epaulo13 epaulo13's picture
epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Highway of Tears internal records deliberately deleted, says B.C.’s privacy commissioner

Senior B.C. government officials are deliberately frustrating public requests for information and wiping away emails with a "triple delete" procedure so no one can follow their tracks, says B.C.'s privacy commissioner.

Elizabeth Denham released a scathing report Thursday that identified abuses and disregard of freedom-of-information legislation that results in keeping sensitive records away from the prying eyes of the public, media and its critics.

"In the course of this investigation, we uncovered negligent searches for records, a failure to keep adequate email records, a failure to document searches, and the wilful destruction of records responsive to an access request," said Denham.

"Taken together, these practices threaten the integrity of access to information in British Columbia."

Stacey Newman Stacey Newman's picture

I am at a loss for an adjective which adequately describes my concern--that information would be, can be destroyed by those in positions of power, presumably to protect power/agendas. Naivete be damned, it isn't naive to demand accountability and action for those who are vulnerable, in our country which once led the world in its rights and freedoms for all, in its respect for human rights. Every Canadian should be demanding a transparent, national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

Every Canadian should care about what happens to those the government seems to care the least about. This is the litmus test for the state of our democracy. 

Pondering

We need far stronger whistleblower protection and greater automatic transparency. This shouldn't have been possible.

The Liberals have committed $40 million over two years to an inquiry that is expected to examine the root causes behind the more than 1,200 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls....

“Justin Trudeau believes you have to talk to the people with expertise and those with lived experience in order to get good policy or good processes,” said Bennett, who was the aboriginal affairs critic in the previous Parliament. “I think step number one is to be in touch with people who have been doing a substantial amount of work, but number one is the families.”

Whatever form the consultations take, many believe it should be done directly with families and aboriginal women at the grassroots level and not through national organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations.

“I know that many families have been hurt and there is a lot of trust issues with the (national organizations) with families. I think they need to stay out of it,” said Beverley Jacobs, a former president of NWAC, although she thinks the organizations and their expertise have other roles to play.

Tanya Kappo, an indigenous lawyer and activist, noted the grassroots have been playing a larger role in the conversation over the past few years, such as through the Idle No More movement with which she has been involved.

“They are perfectly capable of talking for themselves. I think they may have been quite clear, in that even though these organizations exist and may have some views, they don’t represent the voices of the people at the grassroots,” said Kappo.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/10/31/families-must-be-consulted...

Something like this cannot be accomplished overnight. I think the government has to be given a chance to show good faith. As long as I see concrete action being taken before the end of January I'll be cautiously optimistic.

quizzical

Stacey Newman wrote:
..Every Canadian should be demanding a transparent, national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

Every Canadian should care about what happens to those the government seems to care the least about. This is the litmus test for the state of our democracy. 

imv most non-Indigenous Canadians believe "they are being murdered and made to go missing by their own "people" so why is there an inquiry needed". if i had a loonie for everytime i've heard this i could've bought myself a new car. well newish.

 

bekayne

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rona-ambrose-will-support-inquiry-missin...

The Conservatives will support a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, says interim leader Rona Ambrose.

Her comments mark a stunning reversal of the position taken by the Conservatives under Stephen Harper, who repeatedly rebuffed growing calls for a national inquiry, saying the government action on crime precluded the need for further studies.

 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

‘We need to get this right': Missing women groups urge caution before MMIW inquiry

Canada’s new government should tread carefully to lay the proper groundwork for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, says a coalition of Aboriginal and advocacy organizations.

The group wants pre-inquiry consultation with the families of missing and murdered women and related community groups and have them included in establishing the inquiry’s terms of reference and its process for selecting commissioners. It also wants the government to pay legal costs for family members who wish to be involved.

“We firmly believe that indigenous women’s leadership is critical,” said Fay Blaney, co-chairwoman of the Women’s Memorial March Committee.

“We need Indigenous women to be central to the substance and the process of this inquiry. This is about our lives and our safety,” she told a news conference Monday.

As the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to launch a long-sought inquiry into Canada’s almost 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The coalition, which consists of more than two dozen groups and individuals, said British Columbia’s own missing-women inquiry, which wrapped up in 2012, failed on several counts.

They say the inquiry led by former B.C. Appeal Court judge Wally Oppal should serve as a cautionary tale....

Unionist

You can't investigate MMIW without looking at police conduct, Steven Zhou writes

Quote:
A draft of the terms of reference for the upcoming inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women reveals that a through review of police conduct isn't part of the agenda. This is a shame given that every pre-inquiry consultation the government did with 18 different Indigenous communities included a plea to review police conduct. The draft shows a national probe into the matter will instead focus on shedding light on the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women, which further raises the question why police investigations aren't part of the mandate.