Aboriginal women aged 25 to 44 are five times more likely to suffer a violent death than other women in Canada. Most people aren’t aware of this staggering statistic, though, which raises the questions: Why don’t we know that, and why isn’t it being reported on?
A CBC News database launched in April found that, across Canada, more than 230 indigenous women’s deaths or disappearances have been left unsolved. Individually, these stories are tragic and heartbreaking. Over the past six decades, Canada has showcased grave and systematic violations of Native women’s rights. Canada’s indigenous population is over-policed and under-protected, yet our government seemingly has done nothing to protect those living in it. Thanks to community leaders, family members of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and government officials, people are finally starting to learn about this issue.
The Harper government might call it complicated or, better yet, “not a sociological phenomenon,” but on the other hand, we have the CBC calling it “ongoing genocidal violence against the indigenous population.” Two very different sides to the same coin, but in this instance, we’re going to have to take the side of the CBC. Over the course of time, a lot of media attention has been issued to the missing and murdered aboriginal women, with the United Nations calling on Canada to start a national inquiry. The root of the problem runs deep, and while the RCMP has reported that the total number of murdered and missing Aboriginal females exceeds previous public estimates, the government still seemingly continues to deny the issue at hand.
If the government is not going to step in, then the public needs to step up. One thing we need to realize is that our silence has consequences. The more that we do not identify the violence happening in the indigenous population, the more we do not speak up against this violence, the more we do not express our outrage to the government regarding the deep socio-economic inequalities that face Aboriginal communities, then the more widespread and dire this situation will become.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has put together a community resource guide for those who are interested in helping the families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. In this guide, several tool kits have been provided on how to approach situations in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner. In addition, Amnesty International has started the “No More Stolen Sister” campaign, which is calling on the government to have a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, focused on exposing the violence and ensuring government and police accountability. Though an inquiry isn’t a solution in and of itself, at the very least it should serve as a blueprint for government action in the coming years.