Canada's "missing" women

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martin dufresne
Canada's "missing" women

Unresolved missing persons a wound that never heals - Part II in a series
By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service, October 26, 2009

Judy Peterson (...) wants a national missing children's registry. Peterson's daughter Lindsey disappeared 10 years ago.

When the Jaycee Dugard horror story broke in late August, news of the California woman's kidnapping at age 11 - and her 18-year imprisonment in the squalid backyard compound of her alleged abductor and rapist - struck Vancouver Island resident Judy Peterson in a way that might puzzle most Canadians.

"People I've talked to say they feel so sorry," for Dugard and her family, Peterson says. "I'm thinking, oh man they're lucky. It's like they've won the lottery. Obviously, it's a horrendous situation that it happened but, for her to come out the other end of it alive, I'm sure the mother is very, very grateful."

Peterson's perspective arises from her own immeasurable, unresolved grief. Her own 14-year-old daughter, Lindsey, went missing near Courtenay, B.C., in August 1993 and has never been seen or heard from since.

In her quest for closure, the 54-year-old Peterson has spent the past decade championing a cause that could help solve hundreds of missing person cases in Canada - none, perhaps, with the relatively happy ending the Dugard family is now experiencing, but with an ending at least. (...)

Read full story here

martin dufresne

The two preceding reports:

Part 1: Our national tragedy

By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service - October 26, 2009

They disappear from small towns and big cities, from native reserves in the north and affluent suburbs in the south. They drift away and they abruptly vanish. And they leave, in their wake, broken-hearted families, confounded investigators and gaping holes in the communities where they grew up, forged friendships, held jobs, raised children.

At this moment in Canada, there are 1,559 missing women on file with the Canadian Police Information Centre, a national case-tracking database maintained at the RCMP's Ottawa headquarters.

The number sheds only a partial light on this dark story. It doesn't include the lost or stolen girls under the age of 18 who may have lived to become missing women. It doesn't account, anymore, for those who were once missing but have since been proven dead.

It doesn't embrace women who are gone but not reported missing.

Yet great depths of misery and mystery underlie even this imperfect figure. The stories of Canada's lost women - enough to equal the population of a small town, or the entire staff of a large urban hospital - would fill many mournful volumes.


Sisters of Spirit shines a light on missing aboriginal women
By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service - October 26, 2009

Strengthening the Spirit, a committee of service providers that works to meet the needs of Aboriginal people affected by domestic and sexual violence, hosted their annual conference on March 26, 2009. Speakers (left) Bernice Williams-Poitras, and (right) Gladys Radek shared stories of their own and others who have lost family and friends.

They are the keepers of the flame for more than 500 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. And their crusade has become - for the moment, anyway - the whole country's crusade.

From a cramped, west-end Ottawa office decorated with dream catchers and infused with hope, the place where a great divide is bridged between hundreds of grieving communities across Canada and the powers that be on Parliament Hill, a small team of researchers and outreach workers is trying hard not to say: "We told you so."

But the people behind Sisters in Spirit, a five-year, federally funded initiative launched in 2005 by the Native Women's Association of Canada, have been saying all along what most Canadians are just now waking up to after a recent media blitz about murdered and missing women in Western Canada.

They've been telling Canadians that the dead and disappeared are almost everywhere across the country; that there is no single serial killer at work, except apathy; that the tragedy runs deep into the history of aboriginal dispossession and discrimination; that jurisdictional tangles and cultural blind spots help explain why so many killings and so many vanished women have been relegated to the cold-case file.

Among the startling statistics that Sisters in Spirit researchers have compiled - apart from the group's showcase figure of 520 missing or murdered Canadian aboriginal women since about 1970 - is that the toll would be equivalent to 18,000 dead or disappeared women from all ethnic groups for all of Canada.



Feds should renew funding for missing-women lobby: Liberal
By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service - October 27, 2009
The federal Liberal critic for women's issues has called on the Conservative government to guarantee a renewed five-year mandate for Sisters in Spirit, the main national organization raising alarms about the epidemic of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

The group, which operates in affiliation with the Native Women's Association of Canada, has emerged as the key voice in drawing public attention to the issue, and in helping aboriginal communities confront a crisis in which more than 500 native women have vanished across Canada over the past 25 years.

Responding Monday to the publication of a Canwest News Service series that highlighted a funding crunch threatening the organization's future, Liberal MP Anita Neville urged Status of Women Minister Helena Guergis to renew the $5-million, five-year commitment made by the Liberal government of Paul Martin in 2005.

"I think it's important, and it should be renewed," Neville said in an interview. "They're giving hope to lost people that this issue will be addressed - because women continue to go missing."

The Canwest series examined how more than 1,500 women are now in the RCMP's national database of missing people, and highlighted the disproportionate impact the tragedy is having on the country's aboriginal communities.

The work of Sisters in Spirit was showcased, because the organization has been credited with painstakingly documenting the scope of the problem among First Nations, sparking nationwide concern, and initiating community-based prevention programs - including anti-violence and personal-safety education - among affected populations.

SIS officials say they've been encouraged recently by strong expressions of support for their work from Guergis and several of her cabinet colleagues, including Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl.

But with the group's funding set to run out next spring, they're worried the research and advocacy momentum could stall, sending the problem of missing aboriginal women - and lost Canadians in general - back into the shadows. (...)



susan davis susan davis's picture

this is aweful, i hope their funding is renewed....

remind remind's picture

Was working in Prince George, when Aielah went missing, the intensity felt in the VAW community was almost staggering, and the searches were desperate. To be with her mom, after her body was found, outstripped the intensity felt during the search. Never have I felt a woman so fractured before.

Her 14 year old daughter was raped, murdered, chucked out of a vehicle on the side of the highway, like a piece of garbage, where coyotes would find her.....but thankfully they did, as that is how her body was found. Someone noticed non-typical coyote behaviour.