Aboriginal women are using social media to ask “Am I Next?” in an effort to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to open a public inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women around the country.
The campaign was created after 26-year-old Inuit student, Loretta Saunders, was found dead near a stretch of highway in New Brunswick earlier this year. She was studying missing and murdered aboriginal women for a thesis project prior to her death, and her roommates, Victoria Henneberry, 28, and, Blake Leggette, 25, have since faced charges of first-degree murder.
Saunders’s death has brought attention to hundreds of unsolved cases of indigenous women murdered or missing in Canada, with indigenous women across the country using the hashtag #AmINext to further focus attention on the issue, asking whether they, too, will become casualties.
— Maushel (@maushel4) September 11, 2014
Saunders’s cousin, Holly Jarrett, created the #AmINext campaign to bring attention to Saunders’s death and to raise awareness of the approximate 1,200 aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1980.
“She had come through a lot of the same kind of struggles that a lot of women do, affected by colonialism and residential school stuff,” Jarrett told PressProgress.
“We wanted to move it forward for her. She was really passionate about telling her story, to stand up and tell the brutal truth.”
— Annita McPhee (@AnnitaMcPhee) September 8, 2014
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police report released in May found aboriginal women make up 16 percent of female homicides and 11 percent of missing women but only make up 4.3 percent of the county’s population.
Another young indigenous woman, 15-year-old student Tina Fontaine, was found dead in Winnipeg’s Red River last month. She had been in foster care at the time of her disappearance. Her body was dragged from the river wrapped in plastic.
— REDDHH (@REDDHH1) September 11, 2014
Chief of Sagkeeng First Nation, Derrick Henderson, attended Fontaine’s funeral and, like Jarrett, called for a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.
“It’s got to stop, the numbers have to stop there, (we) can’t have any more of this happening,” Henderson said. “Not only in Sagkeeng but anywhere across this country. I hope the governments of all levels are listening to what has happened here in Sagkeeng. An inquiry is something some of the leaders are even talking about.”
— Samantha Rose (@OfficialSREG) September 6, 2014
Jarrett created a petition on Change.org, asking for a public inquiry and so far has more than 300,000 signatures.
“Loretta has now become one of the over 1186 missing or murdered Aboriginal women she was fighting for. It is time for our government to address this epidemic of violence against Aboriginal women,” Jarrett said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said a national inquiry is not necessary but should instead be treated as crimes investigated by police.
“We should not view this as a sociological problem,” Prime Minister Harper said, but Jarrett says she will go on to raise awareness and fight for a national inquiry.
“There’s been tons of independent research, but an inquiry is the most thorough process.” she told the BBC. “[The government] knows an inquiry will hold them responsible.”
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