On October 4, 2010, Sisters and Brothers in Solidarity (SBIS) - following the call by Red Power United- held a 200 person Walk for Justice through Toronto, "to honour our over *500 missing and murdered Indigenous women on Turtle Island (*We recognize that the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women is probably much higher)."
Along with the Walk for Justice, the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) also held a vigil that evening at Allan Gardens.
Neither made the news. No mention or acknowledgement either of the day dedicated to bring attention of the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Now I'm not usually one to let the lack of mainstream media attention bother me, but I remember during the Walk for Justice the drumming and the singing and the shouting out: "Hey Canada, where are our sisters?"
As I am writing this, I realize how pervasive the silence is. Snow that covers an unmarked grave along a desolate stretch of BC highway, further hiding the evidence that something is terribly wrong in Canada.
According to the SBIS press release, "First Nations communities across Canada have been carrying the burden of this sadness for generations as they have walked this trail of grief. They are stepping out of the shadows and coming forward to tell the truth
According to the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), "Aboriginal women and girls are facing the most pervasive human rights crisis in Canada today. As of March 31st 2010 NWAC has found 582 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls."
The slow, insidious disappearance of these women not only robs communities of their important women but also robs them of all the wisdom these women held and all the potential for future generations.
This further damages First Nations communities already struggling to heal from the effects of the residential school system, systemic racism and sexism and the neglect and willful ignorance perpetuated by the federal and provincial government and the police."
The first question that comes to my mind, the first question I want to ask the next person I see on the street or at the next activist meeting is: How would you feel if your daughter went missing? What if your sister simply disappeared? Your mother or auntie vanished? How many more tears would you cry if it seemed like no one was willing to help? Like no one even cared?
The list of missing and murdered Native women in Canada grows: Out a total of 582 cases, 393 died as a result of murder or negligence. And 115 remain missing. Only 53% of the cases involving Native women was someone charged, whereas the average rate for charges in a homicide in Canada is 84%.
According to a statement from Red Power United, "Native women have long struggled to draw attention to violence within their own families and communities. Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist violence against Native women in Canadian cities - but have done little to prevent it.
The pattern looks like this: Racist and sexist stereotypes deny the dignity and worth of Native women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with acts of hatred against them. In Canada, Native women continue to be targets of hatred and violence based on their gender and their race. They continue to be objectified, disrespected, dishonoured, ignored and killed, often with impunity. Decades of government policy have impoverished and broken apart Native families and communities, leaving many Native women and girls extremely vulnerable exploitation and attack."
The Walk for Justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women included the voices of both women and men since both sides of the heart must be brought together to stop the violence. The group demanded no more written reports or incomplete inquiries, but demanded Canada's (the public, media, police, government) honest attention.
It began at Queen's Park and stopped numerous times throughout the route to bring attention to police, government and social service agencies. Medicine (the four sacred medicines: Tobacco, Sage, Cedar and Sweetgrass) was available throughout the march incase anyone needed extra support.
One of the stops along its route was Toronto Police Headquarters were each member of the crowd was given a strip of white cloth and asked to tie it on one of the trees in front of the building with the idea that members of the Toronto police would be forced to remember they are not honouring their commitment to serve and protect.
In Toronto on Monday, two hundred people desperately shouted; "where are our sisters?" and there was no answer? Over the past 20 years, approximately 582 Indigenous women in communities across Canada have gone missing (according to officiated statistics though I believe the number is actually much higher.
Last year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued the statement: "Hundreds of cases involving aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past two decades have neither been fully investigated nor attracted priority attention."
What is wrong with us?
The disgusting smugness of the Canadian government willingness to spend $2 million to build a fake late to entertain foreign journalists during the G20 Summit in Toronto while it cannot 'afford' to provide First Nations communities with clean water.
What is wrong with us?
This stubborn myth in Canadian society that the general public need not concern itself with the affairs of First Nations since it believes that 'the government will take care of them Indians'.
Is this how the government takes care of its 'Indians'? Through the legalized racism of the Indian Act; through Indian Affairs imposing a new Chief and Council on Barriere Lake with the consent of only a half dozen people where community members say, "This looks like tyranny"; to much higher than average rates of incarceration.
What is wrong with us?
With this culture that prefers Hollywood Indians to the real thing; where some white people confuse the concept of a sauna with that of a sweatlodge; or where someone is willing to pay over $1,000 to buy (or sell) a Vision Quest, vacation trip?
What is wrong with us?
I believe firmly believe in the slogan: "No justice/No peace"
No one more disapperance. Not one more death. Our collective treatment of First Nations is a disgrace and needs to change now.
Wake up Canada. This is our civil rights movement.
A similar Stolen Sisters event was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Please click here to find out more.
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