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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Candlelight vigil for families of #MMIW in Edmonton.
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Federal government ministers announce Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls - in Ottawa on Aug. 3, 2016
Commission has authority to conduct MMIWG inquiry as “they see fit”
By Shari Narine Windspeaker Contributor
August 3, 2016.
The chief commissioner for the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls says she and the other four commissioners accept the “serious responsibilities” that have been given to them.
This morning, British Columbia judge Marion Buller was named as chief commissioner for the inquiry. She is joined by Michele Audet, Qajag Robinson, Marilyn Poitras and Brian Eyolfson. All members are Indigenous.
“Our goal is to make concrete recommendations that will ensure the safety of our women and our girls in our communities,” said Buller, after the work undertaken by the three ministers who led the pre-inquiry was symbolically passed on to her in a birch basket containing a memory stick. “We are committed to doing the difficult work ahead of us.”
The federal government has given an additional $13.8 million on top of the budgeted $40 million for the work to be undertaken by the commission, which will operate from Sept. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018.
The Department of Justice will also be providing new funding.
An emotional Jody Wilson-Raybould, justice minister and attorney general, announced $16.17 million over three years to allow provinces and territories to establish family liaison units to help families get information on lost members. As well, $4.5 million will be used to support victim service projects across the country.
“The national inquiry will focus on the root causes of the disproportionate rates of violence of crime against Indigenous women and girls and on the extent of the vulnerability to violence. We need to identify the causes of those disparities and take action now to end them,” said Wilson-Raybould. “We know that the inquiry cannot undo the injustices that Indigenous peoples have suffered over decades, but we can review what happened in the past, reflect on our present circumstances and chart a path moving forward.”
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the national inquiry is unique in that not only is it supported through the federal Inquiries Act, but provinces and territories are in the process of passing orders in council giving the commission access within provincial and territorial jurisdictions. The commission will be supported by regional special advisory committees.
“We are handing over authority to the five commissioners to conduct the inquiry in the manner they see fit,” said Wilson-Raybould.
The terms of reference for the commission are here .
Terms of Reference for upcoming Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls released
Read more: http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/oic-ddc.asp?lang=eng&txtToDate=&txtPrecis=&Page=secretariats&txtOICID=&txtAct=&txtBillNo=&txtFromDate=2015-08-02&txtDepartment=&txtChapterNo=&txtChapterYear=&rdoComingIntoForce=&DoSearch=Search+/+List&pg=2&viewattach=32424&blnDisplayFlg=1
Alberta sets Order in Council for MMIWG inquiry as a priority
By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor
August 3, 2016.
Passing an Order in Council to give standing to the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls is a priority for Alberta.
“We will adopt the terms of references and the commissioners under the provincial Public Inquiries Act,” said Brent Wittmeier, press secretary for Richard Feehan, minister of Alberta Indigenous Affairs. “We’ve been supportive of the process since we became government and we’ll continue to do so.”
Wittmeier could not offer a timeline as to when the Order in Council would be adopted.
Feehan released a statement Tuesday morning following the federal government’s launching of the national inquiry. The five-member commission, led by British Columbia judge Marion Buller, will operate from Sept. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018.
“Our government has always supported the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. We are working to ensure provincial powers are available to the commission to support their critical work in our province,” said Feehan, in his statement.
In the terms of reference set out by the federal government, the commission’s mandate includes inquiring into and reporting on “systemic causes of all forms of violence… including underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical causes contributing to the ongoing violence and particular vulnerabilities of Indigenous women and girls in Canada.”
“It gives (the commission) the scope to look into provincial bodies … when it’s adopted provincially. Then they can look at Human Services or policing in the province, things like that,” said Wittmeier.
Wittmeier adds that the province will incur the costs relating to its own participation, whether that’s through required documentation or witnesses from government agencies. What the price tag will be is unclear as it is yet unknown how far back the commission will go or what the scope of examination will be.
The province will also provide additional victims services, if required, although the federal government has allotted $4.5 million to support victim services across the country.
The commission is to deliver its interim report in November 2017 and its final report with recommendations on Dec. 1, 2018.
The province is not bound to implement the recommendations.
MMIW families voice concerns over treatment of police
By Shari Narine Contributor Editor Alberta Sweetgrass
February 12, 2016
On a personal level, Danielle Boudreau is hoping to get a permanent grave marker for her sister.
“My sister doesn’t have a headstone because we can’t afford a headstone. She’s still going unnoticed even in her last day,” said Boudreau, who is Metis from the St. Paul/Saddle Lake area.
On a wider level, she is hoping that a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women will meet the needs and bring closure for the many, many family members impacted by the tragic loss of a loved one.
Photo: Danielle Boudreau with a poster of her sister, who was murdered in 2006. Her family has yet to get closure because the woman that killed Juanita Cardinal was never charged.
(Photo: Shari Narine)
Boudreau was among the many immediate family members to meet with Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett on Thursday. Bennett’s stop at the River Cree Marriott was her 16th pre-inquiry meeting as she crosses the country to get input as to what the national inquiry needs to accomplish and how it can best meet those goals while caring for the families, who tell their heart-wrenching stories.
“For the families, my heart is with all of the people here. I’ve seen the tears, the hugs, the smiles. The group we all belong to. It’s like a group we don’t want to belong to,” said Boudreau.
Boudreau knows she could easily have been counted among the 1,200 murdered and missing Indigenous women. She led a lifestyle of drugs and sexual exploitation. Instead, it was her sister, Juanita Marie Cardinal, who worked in a pad thai restaurant, who was murdered in 2006.
“As soon as I say my sister was murdered, people automatically assume she was in the sex trade,” said Boudreau. “That’s exactly the stigma we, as Aboriginal people, live with.”
Families deeply traumatized by pre-inquiry, says participant
By Shari Narine Windspeaker Contributor
February 9, 2016
Deborah Ginnish knows the importance of having families listened to before the federal government undertakes the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Last week, Ginnish travelled from her home on the Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia to be part of a forum conducted by the Assembly of First Nations on the Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta.
The result of that forum will be a report the AFN will present to the federal government Feb. 15 laying out the conditions that need to be met if this inquiry hopes to be successful.
But the result of that forum for Ginnish was dredging up memories that have not been laid to rest–not for her, her family or her community.
Ten years ago, Ginnish’s niece Michelle, 23, was stabbed to death by a woman on the Membertou First Nation. It was an alcohol and drug-fuelled argument that spun out of control.
“That really split the community. Even today it’s still there,” said Ginnish. “We are still grieving. That bitterness is still there. Even towards that family of that woman because it is such a close-knit community and it will never go away.”
Federal government begins process for murdered, missing Indigenous women inquiry
By Shari Narine Windspeaker Writer
December 9, 2015
One of the first actions taken by the Notley government when elected was to throw NDP support behind the call for a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women.
The federal government has made that call.
Throughout his election campaign, Justin Trudeau said the government would convene a national inquiry. Yesterday, the Liberals honoured that commitment. Just hours before the official announcement outlining how the inquiry would take shape, Trudeau reiterated at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly that the inquiry was a priority for his government “because those touched by this national tragedy have waited long enough. The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to heal and to be heard. We must work together to put an end to this ongoing tragedy.”
“We are pleased that the federal government is moving quickly to take first steps on this important initiative,” said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in a statement.
For years, the Harper government denied the necessity of such an inquiry. But his successor, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, Sturgeon River-Parkland MP, stood firm with the Liberals in supporting the inquiry.
Ministers Carolyn Bennett (Indigenous and northern affairs), Jody Wilson-Raybould (justice and attorney general) and Patty Hajdu (status of women) made the announcement in Ottawa, breaking down what is to be a two phase process.
The first phase is to begin immediately, said Wilson-Raybould, and will involve meeting with families of victims, frontline service workers, national Aboriginal, provincial, and territorial representatives over the next two months. This phase will be used to design and set the scope of the inquiry.
“The inquiry itself is to be able to find concrete action that will actually stop this national tragedy. That includes seeking justice for the families, support for those families, but what we’ve heard time and time again is that these families want to prevent this tragedy so that other families don’t have to go through this,” said Bennett.
Bennett was blunt in saying that prejudice plays a key role in what has transpired.
“Racism and sexism in this country kills,” she said.
Dr. Dawn Lavell Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, agrees.
“We can’t see (this inquiry) as just retrying specific cases of crimes. It needs to keep that larger perspective of what are the systemic problems, the racism and sexism that are contributing to the lack of safety, that are contributing to the lack of police response, that are contributing to the unsafe situations,” she said. Lavell Harvard was in Edmonton last week to speak about violence that faces Aboriginal women.
“We need to make sure that (the inquiry) is keeping the larger framework of the human rights perspective, that this is about ensuring Indigenous women and girls specifically, Indigenous people in general, have basic human rights. The right to safety, the right to the same quality of life as everybody here in Canada. Because it is those larger root causes that makes our people more vulnerable, that puts them in unsafe conditions,” she said.
Figures released by the RCMP in 2014 indicated close to 1,200 Indigenous women murdered or missing between 1980 and 2012, with 1,017 women as homicide victims and 164 women considered missing.
While the Liberals outlined a two-year, $40 million commitment to the inquiry, Bennett was clear that the figures were simply “place holders” in the platform and would be adjusted depending on what the ministers heard as consultations progressed.
Nearly half of murdered indigenous women did not know killers, Star analysis shows
A Star analysis suggests 44 per cent of the women were victims of acquaintances, strangers and serial killers. This finding is based on a Star review of publicly available information on more than 750 murder cases. Of that number, 224 murders remain unsolved.
Published on Dec 04 2015
In the seemingly ceaseless tragedy of murdered Indigenous women, the country has been left with one crystal-clear impression: the overwhelming majority of those women were in some sort of relationship with their killers.
This is not true.
A Toronto Star analysis suggests 44 per cent of the women were victims of acquaintances, strangers and serial killers. This finding is based on a Star review of publicly available information on more than 750 murder cases. Of that number, 224 murders remain unsolved.
There are many public lists of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. The Star compiled those lists into a single database then set out to verify as much information as possible. Relying on newspaper clippings and court documents, the Star’s database includes 1,129 names, dates and, when a case was solved, some information on the offenders.
Our review found 420 cases where details of the relationship between victim and offender were known. Some of them date to the 1960s. Of those:
Aboriginal leaders who reviewed the Star’s findings say they show that the killers cannot be easily profiled and that reasons why indigenous women make up a disproportionately high percentage of homicide victims are not so neatly diagnosed.
Bennett says victims’ families to play key role in MMIW inquiry
November 19, 2015. In an interview with the Guardian, Indigenous and northern affairs minister Carolyn Bennett said that victims’ families will play a key role in the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, which could also include elements of Aboriginal ceremony and culture. Bennett said the head of the inquiry will need to “be able to be creative and innovative in the way this commission takes place.” RCMP have indicated that 1,181 Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or disappeared in suspicious circumstances over the past 30 years. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made a national inquiry a priority in his campaign. The government is expected to launch a pre-consultation on the inquiry in the coming weeks and hopes to launch the full inquiry by the summer of 2016.
Violence against Aboriginal women not an Aboriginal-only issue
Native Women’s Association of Canada president Dawn Lavell-Harvard offered hard facts on the difficult life many Aboriginal women lead. (Photo: Shari Narine)
By Shari Narine Windspeaker Writer
December 3, 2015
Dawn Lavell-Harvard was moved to tears last night when she relayed her young daughter's concern after hearing her mother do an interview with CBC Radio about violence and rates of homicide for Indigenous women. Asked Lavell-Harvard’s preteen: “We’re Native, right? And I’m a girl, right? Mom, does that mean I’m in danger?”
As an Aboriginal female, based both on statistics and anecdotal evidence, Lavell-Harvard would have to answer yes. And that scares her for her three daughters. And it keeps her on task.
“In a society where women are devalued and Aboriginal people are dehumanized, Indigenous women are the lowest of the low on a scale of who matters and who doesn’t,” said Lavell-Harvard.
And nothing will change until the make-up of the people who care about what is happening to Aboriginal women and girls changes.
Take the audience who filled the theatre at the Stanley Milner library in downtown Edmonton to hear Lavell-Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, talk about the challenges facing Aboriginal women. They were mainly women, mainly Aboriginal women, with a smattering of men, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
“As long as it’s seen as an Aboriginal issue, specifically an Aboriginal women’s issue, we are always going to be focusing on treating the symptoms. Crisis intervention. Mopping up after the fact,” said Lavell Harvard.
While the majority of men are not violent against women, the majority of violence against women is caused by men. And, Lavell-Harvard holds, men know about the violence and remain silent. That silence is complicity. Men need to become part of the conversation.
"If I got every Aboriginal woman, along with her kids and their hubbies, and their grandpas and their brothers and their uncles and put them on Greyhound buses and drove them all to Ottawa, it would still be such a small whisper that the government writes it off that this is not an issue for the general Canadian population. So having those allies come and hear what’s going on, that’s what’s going to make a difference,” she said.
Lavell-Harvard presented startling statistics, but none of them new: the RCMP says close to 1,200 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing since the mid-1980s; the majority of women who fall into the 1,200 number are between the ages of 19-30; Aboriginal women are eight times more likely to be killed than non-Aboriginal women; and over 40 per cent of Aboriginal women live in poverty. But it’s not all statistics, she says, referring to the more recent occurrence in Val d’Or, where members of the police department have been accused by a dozen Aboriginal women of mistreatment and being solicited for sexual favours.
It’s not that the women are vulnerable, says Lavell Harvard, it’s that they are in vulnerable situations.
Lavell-Harvard called on people in attendance to speak out, whether ate their workplaces, their corporations, their unions, their churches, their families.
“We can’t let this be an Aboriginal issue. We have to join together and start to make a difference. We have to do something,” she said.
While she lauded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his commitment to hold a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, Lavell-Harvard said it was important that recommendations that come from the inquiry are followed up with legislation and a realistic budget.
“We have to keep the pressure on. Hold their feet to the fire. Hold them accountable… to have a solid national action plan. The inquiry is just the first step to identify the problems,” she said.
MMIW march stops traffic in London
Aboriginal women, men and children took to King Street to march together from Atlohsa Native Family Healing Services to Ivey Park on Oct. 4 to bring attention to the national issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Purple Spirit was the men’s host drum, led by Jason George of Kettle Point, and Liz Akwienzie led the women singers from Oneida in the Strong Women’s Song.
Denise Stonefish was one of the spokespersons at the event at Ivey Park where a sacred fire burned and the Giveaway Ceremony was held. Passionate speeches were made by orators such as Darlene Ritchie who related the teachings of the Creation Story and Skywoman, and the steps we can take in our communities today to protect women and girls.
Mary Lou Smoke talked about her sister, Debbie Sloss Clarke, who was found dead and abandoned in an apartment in Toronto, and how her murder remains unsolved.
Chief Leslee Whiteye of Chippewas of the Thames shared her work with the urban Indigenous population and her desire that her girls would not be among the MMIW.
Atlohsa’s Earring Blanket was adorned with earrings from community members in commemoration of the lives of people they knew were affected, or to just show they cared. It was displayed proudly next to the work of guest artist Maxine Noel.
Joanne Jackson, residential healer was on hand from Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre to share resources from her program, and she brought Noel to the event to take part. Noel shared a print of the painting that she created for Native Women’s Association of Canada, entitled “Not Forgotten.”
Valcourt using statistics as diversionary tactic
Via Doug Cuthand - The StarPhoenix - April 17
Aboriginal Minister Bernard Valcourt has a terrible relationship with his client group.
He continues to appear as an angry politician who resents his job, and it is revealed in his disrespect and confrontational attitude when dealing with First Nations leaders. His reaction to calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women has been negative and bellicose.
When some Alberta chiefs questioned Valcourt about missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the minister was defensive and made the accusation that 70 per cent of Aboriginal women were killed by an Aboriginal person. He referenced the RCMP but stated that this information had not been made public, so the chiefs were caught flat-footed.
The RCMP had said it hesitated to make the information public because of its preference for "bias-free policing." The national police service also based its conclusions on information obtained from about 300 law enforcement agencies and couldn't confirm the accuracy of each report.
However, Valcourt was under pressure to resign and the heat was on. So RCMP Commissioner Bo Paulsen had to come forward and state that, yes, 70 per cent of homicides against aboriginal women were perpetrated by aboriginal men. That's the government's line these days: The Indians did it to themselves, and it's case closed. "Move along folks, there's nothing to see here."
But you can't take statistical information and examine it in a vacuum. To use Prime Minister Stephen Harper's disparaging remark, you must "commit sociology."
First of all, the police information is based on solved murders. If the perpetrator of a murder isn't arrested, obviously the police can't guess who did it and include that in the statistics.
Police will also point out that domestic crimes are relatively easy to solve. They are considered the low-hanging fruit of homicides. An anonymous serial killer or a death of someone on a lonely highway are far more difficult to solve, and these deaths are more likely committed by persons unknown to the victim.
Also, while 70 per cent of aboriginal women are murdered by a spouse, partner of family member, the corresponding figure is 75 per cent for the non-Aboriginal population. So, both groups are facing similar circumstances.
This situation has been an issue of concern for Aboriginal organizations for years. Spousal violence has been the subject of workshops and counselling to the point that RCMP statistics revealed that the rate of fatal violence directed at aboriginal women is on the decline. This, of course, was a statistic that Valcourt failed to reveal.
I can't recall instances of women's organizations and advocacy groups dismissing lateral violence. Instead, they speak out against it. I have never heard any of the advocates for an inquiry lay all the blame at the foot of outsiders and ignore the serious problem we face with lateral violence. This is an issue that advocacy groups maintain must be a part of an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Valcourt's comments reflect his ignorance of the First Nations community, and his lack of knowledge of our history with addressing issues such as lateral violence. He is obviously taking advice from Aboriginal Affairs officials who view First Nations people as adversaries.
RCMP Report on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women is Statistically Skewed
Via Pam Palmater- Indigenous Nationhood - April 10
Michael Den Tandt: Why Canada should abolish the Indian Act and reserve system
Via National Post: Full comment April 13
Should a national public inquiry be convened to shine a klieg light on the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women? Absolutely. But let there be no flinching from the result, wherever it may lead — even if that is a final indictment of the parlous reserve system itself, and a concerted push to abolish the Indian Act, appalling racist relic that it is, once and for all.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson caused a stir Friday with the release of a letter, addressed to Grand Chief Bernice Martial of the Treaty No. 6 Nations, in which he confirmed the obvious: The majority of convicted murderers of aboriginal women, 70 per cent, are aboriginal men. Similar statistics gathered from among the non-aboriginal population, or any population, will reveal a similar ratio. That’s because violence against women and children is typically perpetrated by spouses and parents. As with child sexual abuse, the bugaboo of the stranger assailant is most often a construct.
Justice for Cindy Gladue
Thursday, April 2, 2015
#Edmonton #yeg #MMIW #MMAW
CBC News has investigated the unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada over the last six decades. Here are the stories of about 230 women, including comments from more than 100 family members. We need your help to expand this database and add more information, and we will update it regularly.
Read more: www.cbc.ca/missingandmurdered/
Opinion: Justice for Cindy Gladue demands an appeal of recent verdict
Via Edmonton Journal - March 26
Last week, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, students in my criminology course spoke at Edmonton City Hall about racism in the criminal justice system. They turned their thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Cindy Gladue, an indigenous woman who lived and worked in Edmonton. Although those who knew Cindy had hoped for justice following her horrific death in June 2011, they received no solace from a system that further violated her body and allowed the man on trial for her death to walk free.
Cindy Gladue has been described in many ways: as a mother, a sister, an auntie, and a friend. She has been named as one of more than 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in the country. But most descriptions of her life emphasize that she was an indigenous woman and a sex worker.
In a context of ongoing stigma against these dual identities, the defence argued that she died by accident, during “rough sex;” that an 11-centimetre tear inside her body was caused by accident, rather than violent sexual assault leading to her death.
Such an argument is only possible in a context that normalizes violence against sex workers, and excuses and facilitates ongoing violence against indigenous women.
Cindy’s blood alcohol level at her death was four times over the legal limit, but the defence argued she was a chronic drinker — further stigmatizing, further stereotyping her. She died in a hotel bathtub of massive blood loss from her wound.
The Crown accused Brad Barton of causing these fatal injuries with “considerable force.” Barton claimed the injury was inadvertently caused during a consensual sex act. The jury of nine men and two women acquitted him last week.
Read more: Opinion+Justice+Cindy+Gladue
Ottawa Largely Ignored 700 Recommendations On Missing Aboriginal Women, Study Finds
Via Huffington Post - February 25
A new study says the federal government is ignoring dozens of recommendations on how to reduce the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
The study, which analyzed 58 others on violence against native women, found most of the reviews spanning two decades agreed on the root causes of that violence.
But Ottawa has largely ignored more than 700 recommendations to address the issue, says the report, which was commissioned by the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women, which includes Amnesty International.
At the same time, the federal government has regularly pointed to "40 studies" that have been done when it has said a national inquiry is not needed.
"Yes, we've got all these reports, but we're not seeing the implementation," said Kim Stanton, legal director of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund. "What is really needed is a state-sponsored, public inquiry in every sense of the word."
People from across the country are to meet in Ottawa on Friday for a national roundtable on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
The RCMP estimates there are about 1,200 aboriginal women who are unaccounted for or have been murdered. Although indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
Grief and anger over injustice simmers under surface
By Barb Nahwegahbow Windspeaker Contributor TORONTO
Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women were commemorated with a Strawberry Ceremony on Valentine’s Day.
The ceremony, held at Toronto Police Headquarters at Yonge and College streets, celebrated its tenth anniversary. More than 800 people gathered to pray, sing and remember the thousand-plus daughters, sisters, mothers and aunties whose lives were cut short by violence.
Helyna Rivera, a Mohawk woman from Six Nations, was murdered in Buffalo on Aug. 10, 2011. Last year, her killer was sentenced to 25 years by a Buffalo court.
Rivera’s grandmother, Renee Hess, addressed the crowd, promising that, “even though the grave has silenced my granddaughter’s voice, I will continue to speak for her.
“When we stand up and speak for ourselves, we are looked at as terrorists here in Canada. I refuse to be called a terrorist. I am a protector of our land and our people.”
Rivera’s mother, Linda John, wept as she spoke publicly for the first time. Holding up a picture of her daughter in her powwow regalia, she said “Three years ago, my 26-year-old daughter was murdered, shot down, gunned down by the only man she ever loved. She left four beautiful babies that I now take care of.”
The two youngest babies, she told the crowd, witnessed the murder. John said she’s learned about the violence against her daughter that took place behind closed doors and has had to rise above this for the sake of her grandchildren.
“Without the Creator by my side, I don’t think I would have gone this far,” John said. “Grab onto something, believe in something because without that power, you will be lost. There was a time when I thought my life wasn’t worth living,” she said. But when she faced her former son-in-law in court, “I looked at him and I stared and I said, ‘There will come a day when I rise above my pain, above my heart, which has been broken, shattered and then I will make an awareness and I will help’.”
Organization of American States delivers report of missing and murdered Indigenous women in British Columbia
A report into missing and murdered indigenous women in B.C. is breathing new life into an acrimonious debate between advocates of a public inquiry and the Canadian government, which says it is taking action to address the problem but refuses to call an inquiry.
The report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is affiliated with the Organization of American States, said it "strongly supports the creation of a national-level action plan or a nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls."
The report came to several conclusions, including:
- The high numbers of missing and murdered aboriginal women in B.C. are concentrated in Prince George and the Downtown Eastside.
- The police have "failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances."
- Multiple policing jurisdictions in B.C. have resulted in "confusion" between the RCMP and Vancouver police.
The report acknowledged the steps already taken by Canadian governments at both the federal and provincial levels to address some of the problems and challenges that indigenous women face.
Last fall, the federal government committed to a five-year plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls.
Today, the office for Kellie Leitch, the minister for the status of women, said the government was reviewing the report.
"Our government has received the IACHR’s report and is reviewing the report’s findings, comments and recommendations."
The report's recommendations include calls for:
- Providing a safe public transport option along Highway 16 in Prince George.
- Mandatory training for police officers, prosecutors, judges and court personnel "in the causes and consequences of gender-based violence."
- A national plan or public inquiry in consultation with indigenous peoples.
NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder said it was "unconscionable" for the government to ignore growing calls for a public inquiry.
"It is time for the prime minister and [Aboriginal Affairs Minister] Bernard Valcourt to stop ignoring the sociological phenomenon of missing and murdered indigenous women and take federal action to address the crisis," Crowder said in a written statement.
Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett also urged the government to heed the report's recommendations.
"The prime minister’s shocking indifference to this ongoing tragedy is not only a national disgrace, but an international embarrassment," Bennett said in a written statement.
Missing women: Canada can’t hide anymore
Via Globe and Mail - Meghan Rhoad
n July, 2012, Lydia N. (not her real name) sat in a hotel room not far from Highway 16 – the “Highway of Tears” in northern British Columbia where so many indigenous women and girls have been murdered or disappeared – and told me about her efforts to keep her 15-year old daughter safe from violence. She said she had spoken to the police six times, urging them without success to press charges against her daughter’s adult boyfriend for an incident in which he choked her daughter on a public street. It was not the first episode of abuse, and Lydia doubted it would be the last. She told a constable, “The next day you hear from me you’re going to hear that my daughter’s dead.” In the end, she said, “We’re First Nations and they just don’t care. That’s how I feel.”
The sentiment was not uncommon as Human Rights Watch interviewed indigenous women and girls across northern B.C. for a report about their treatment by police. However, the “they” who didn’t care wasn’t always just the police, but often the government, and sometimes the community at large. As another woman told us, having seen the authorities’ reactions to her sister’s murder decades ago and to more recent crimes in the community, “If we go missing who is going to care except for our family?”
Sadly, statements from the current government do little to challenge these beliefs. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, when questioned in December about calls for a national inquiry into the more than 1,200 indigenous women and girls murdered or disappeared across Canada, said, “It isn't really high on our radar, to be honest.” The government has repeatedly rejected calls to establish an independent national commission of inquiry into the violence against indigenous women and girls, who represent only 4.3 per cent of the female population – but fully 16 per cent of female homicide victims. This intransigence has persisted even as the separate 2014 murders of Tina Fontaine and Loretta Saunders have made headlines, brought the issue onto the public radar, and ignited widespread outrage at the continuing violence.
Speaking on the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls on the steps of Parliament Hill in October 2014
Prolonged, entrenched human rights crisis right here in Canada
By Dan Rubinstein Windspeaker Contributor OTTAWA
Aboriginal leaders and the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women repeated their calls for a national inquiry into the crisis on the steps of Parliament Hill during a National Day of Remembrance on Oct. 4, but the rally’s first speaker, Cree elder Irene Lindsay, insisted that the vigil was about more than grief.
“Today we need to celebrate their spirits,” she said, “and to honour these beautiful women.”
Chief Gilbert Whiteduck of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg acknowledged the parents of Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, who were standing behind him with pictures of their children on placards. The two teenaged girls from the large Algonquin reserve north of Ottawa vanished without a trace six years ago.
“I find it deplorable that in a wonderful country like Canada we continue to lose so many women,” said Whiteduck, “and so few concrete things are being done about it.”
“It is difficult to imagine the pain and sorrow that so many families have to go through every day of their lives,” said Ghislain Picard, interim national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Why does the federal government monitor human rights abuses around the world, he asked, and not pay attention to abuses in our country? “Justice is a fundament human right,” he added, “even in Canada.”
Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, recalled standing across the street in Ottawa’s National Press Theatre 10 years ago as his organization launched its “Stolen Sisters” report. A decade later, according to the latest RCMP statistics, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have been murdered since 1980, and as of November 2013, at least 105 women and girls remained missing under suspicious circumstances.
“This is an entrenched human rights crisis,” said Neve. “It’s probably the most longstanding human rights crisis we’ve ever faced here in Canada.”
Dream catcher weaved in Halifax to honour souls of missing, murdered Aboriginal women
Via Metronews.ca October 16
Halifax community members gathered on Wednesday to weave a 10-foot dream catcher to honour missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
The Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre on Gottingen Street hosted the event with support from the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
They’re making 824 small dream catchers to hang off the large one, each of those representing one of the Aboriginal women currently missing in Canada.
“A dream catcher is to help you have good dreams and take the bad dreams away, but in this case, those women who are missing, their dreams are gone,” said Debbie Eisan, who works at the centre. “We want to make sure that their dreams are not going to be forgotten and their lives won’t be forgotten.”
The purple ribbon on these dream catchers represents the missing woman, and the black bead represents the mourning of that woman.
No More Silence is creating a community run database documenting violent deaths of Indigenous women and girls
The purpose of the database is to honour our women and provide family members with a way to document their loved ones passing.
Read more: www.itstartswithus-mmiw.com/list
RCMP report on Aboriginal women puts numbers to our national shame: Tim Harper
We are quick to work to protect women's rights abroad, but when it comes to murdered Aboriginals at home, we are quick to look the other way.
Tim Harper - TheStar.com - May 18
Last week, while Aboriginal demonstrators were marching outside the Centre Block, New Democratic MP Niki Ashton rose in the Commons and asked the government — again — to convene a national inquiry to provide answers and justice for the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
What she got from the country’s justice minister, Peter MacKay, was a patronizing smack down.
“What we do not need is haughty, condescending questions from the Opposition,” said Mackay, before lapsing into the familiar rote answer about more “actual, concrete, substantive, practical action” to protect aboriginal women.
The government has long resisted an inquiry, saying another analysis is not needed. What is needed, we are told, is action.
That argument would be much more palatable if this government was actually doing something substantive, rather than cosmetic.
It would be far more palatable if this government could explain why an inquiry into how this has happened somehow precludes immediate action. now.
An inquiry is not an excuse for inaction in the here and now.
It would be far more palatable if a law-and-order government, which preaches the rights of victims, could explain why it is so reluctant to give families who lost loved ones the tiny bit of closure that could come from speaking publicly if they felt their concerns were not given priority by law enforcement agencies.
Yes, an inquiry would be costly and the range of issues at play here mean the scope could be unwieldy. An inquiry would embarrass us all — successive governments, local police forces and the RCMP, and non-aboriginals in this country. Maybe we need that.
This government, and indeed this country, needs a jolt to some type of action to deal with a national shame that is depriving families of justice and staining this country’s reputation worldwide.
One thousand one hundred and eighty one murdered and missing Indigenous mothers, sisters, daughters and loved ones.
RCMP release Report on Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
• A total of 1181 Indigenous women and girls have been mnurdered or are missing between 1980 and 2012.
• 1017 are homicide victims.
• 164 Indigenous women and girls are still missing.
• 225 cases are still unsolved.
• Indigenous women and girls make up 4.3 percent of the total female population but make up 11.3 percent of the murdered and missing.
• The report states that of the cases solved: 85% of Aboriginal cases compared to 89% of non-Aborginial cases.
• Half (49%) of the women murdered in Canada are Aboriginal.
Link to the RCMP report: www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/rcmp-release-report-murdered
Missing Indigenous women: Ottawa ignored draft report's inquiry recommendation
Calls for inquiry grow after RCMP reveals 1,200 aboriginal women murdered or missing over 30 years
Via CBC.ca - May 2, 2014
CBC News has obtained a confidential draft version of a special Commons committee report on violence against Aboriginal women, which included a recommendation that the government hold a national commission of public inquiry into missing or murdered Aboriginal women.
That recommendation was not included in the committes's final report tabled in March.
The Conservative government was again refusing calls to hold a public inquiry Thursday into the issue following a report by broadcaster APTN that said the RCMP's review of police files had uncovered more than 1,000 cases.
The Mounties initially refused to either confirm or deny the report but, according to the Toronto Star, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed the figure to reporters outside a meeting of the public safety committee in Ottawa later in the day.
Paulson said the RCMP's review of police files had found more than 1,000 cases of murdered Aboriginal women and girls dating back 30 years, along with another 186 cases of disappearances, the majority of which are suspected to involve foul play, the Star reported.
Asked about the APTN report at the committee, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the RCMP numbers would be released within the next month. But Blaney flat-out refused calls for a national inquiry, instead pointing to anti-crime measures the government has taken.
The draft report obtained by CBC News was prepared by committee analysts who, along with the committee MPs, listened to dozens of witnesses about how to address the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
The draft report was based on testimony from those witnesses, but in the final report prepared by the MPs, the Conservative majority voted to remove the recommendation.
The NDP's critic for the status of women again appealed to the government Thursday.
"Families want closure, they want justice, they want to be heard and they want action from this government. When will this federal government call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?" Niki Ashton said during the public safety committee meeting.
Lakeshore shut down for missing and murdered women
By Barb Nahwegahbow Windspeaker Contributor TORONTO
One of Toronto’s main transportation arteries was shut down on March 22 by activists seeking justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW). About 35 people blocked Lakeshore Boulevard for 40 minutes.
The group had earlier been at a demonstration organized by poverty action groups at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where the Ontario Liberal Party was holding its assembly. It was only when the rally ended that the MMIW supporters announced plans for further action.
Police on bikes scrambled to stop traffic as the group made its way down Lower Simcoe St. carrying warrior flags and a banner that read “Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Now.”
Leading the march was John Fox of Wikwemikong Unceded Territory in northern Ontario. Fox’s 20-year-old daughter Cheyenne fell to her death from a 24-storey condominium in April 2013. The police ruled Cheyenne’s death a suicide, but Fox has said repeatedly he doesn’t accept that.
The police don’t care, he yelled into the bullhorn. The group, he said, wanted a national inquiry now. The crowd chanted “no more stolen sisters” amidst honking horns from angry motorists.
The group first made its way west along Lakeshore and there were tense moments between Fox and the police who attempted to dissuade Fox from continuing the march. Angry words were exchanged between several demonstrators and the police.
The group turned around to march east, stopping at the intersection of Lakeshore and Lower Simcoe where the women drummed and sang. Motorists leaned out their windows to see what was causing the delay, as police diverted traffic.
Michele Pineault, whose daughter Stephanie’s DNA was found on the Pickton farm
Pickton victims’ children offered $50K compensation
By David P. Ball Windspeaker Contributor
More than a year after the missing women inquiry ruled that systemic racism and a “colossal failure” by RCMP and Vancouver police had allowed serial killer Robert Pickton to continue killing for years, B.C. has settled a lawsuit with 13 children of missing women, and announced a $4.9 million fund for 98 such children in the province.
Announcing the fund on March 18, B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton said a $50,000 fund for each child of women named in the missing women inquiry final report is “a fair amount” and “the right thing to do.”
The fund was announced by Anton alongside Vancouver Police Department chief Jim Chu and representatives of B.C. RCMP and Vancouver City Council. But several families of serial killer Robert Pickton’s mostly Indigenous victims decried the price on their mothers’ deaths as “blood money” and insufficient compensation.
“It’s sad to say my daughter’s birth mother was only worth $50,000,” said Bridget Perrier, stepmother of Angel Wolfe, whose mother Brenda was one of Pickton’s six murder convictions.
“They have blood on their hands, so this is blood money.
“As someone who’s raised a child that is an orphan due to the systemic racism that went on within the province of B.C. and within the VPD, this is disgusting… it’s pennies. Some of these children have been raised in immense poverty... These are children with multiple layers of issues.”
“No amount of money could compensate the children for the loss of their mother, but we do hope that this fund will help the 98 children who are eligible,” Anton told reporters. “It is our sincere hope that this funding will provide these children with an opportunity to enhance their education, their housing and other circumstances as they progress with their lives.”
Strawberry ceremony honours Aboriginal women
By Barb Nahwegahbow Windspeaker Contributor TORONTO
About 500 people attended the Feb. 14 Strawberry Ceremony held in Toronto to honour the more than 600 Aboriginal women who are missing or have died violent deaths, and to seek justice for the women with calls for a national inquiry.
UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, James Anaya, who toured Canada last year, said the federal government should set up a national inquiry into the “disturbing phenomenon” of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The Harper government has so far not heeded the call.
It was the ninth year for the ceremony, which took place in front of Toronto Police Headquarters on College Street. Signs with photographs and names of the women printed on them were a bleak reminder of the vulnerability of Aboriginal women.
“We’re here in love, not anger,” said Elder Wanda Whitebird to those gathered, as strawberries and water, the women’s medicines, were given out.
For 63-year-old Joyce Carpenter, the ceremony marked the first time she spoke in public since the death of her 14-year-old daughter Trish 21 years ago. Her daughter’s body was found on a construction site, stuffed headfirst into a hole where she died of asphyxiation. Holding up a picture of her daughter, Carpenter said, “She had just given birth to a beautiful little boy, now 22, and was only with his mother for six weeks.”
A coroner’s inquest ruled her daughter’s death an accident.
Carpenter doesn’t accept this. The system, “…just wrote her off,” she said. If there had been a proper investigation, Carpenter said, they would have ruled the death a homicide.
It was the violent and suspicious deaths of three young Aboriginal women in Toronto within the space of three months last year that prompted Carpenter to share her story.
Christina Davis and friend at Toronto Vigil remembering her sister
Vigil held to honour Aboriginal women and end violence
Barb Nahwegahbow - Windspeaker Contributor
Photographs of Aboriginal women pasted on placards were grim reminders of why people were gathered in Toronto’s Allan Gardens on Oct. 4. On that evening, the Native Women’s Resource Centre, together with many other communities across the country, held the annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil to honour hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
The first Sisters in Spirit Vigil was held on the steps of Parliament Hill in 2006. The vigils are held to support the families in their healing and to let all Aboriginal women know they are loved and valued.
About 200 people gathered at Allan Gardens, many of them carrying photographs of sisters, mothers and daughters who are among the missing and murdered women. For the first time, the City of Toronto proclaimed Oct. 4, 2013 as “Sisters in Spirit Day” in support of the movement’s efforts “to raise awareness about the alarmingly high rates of violence experienced by Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.”
Councillor Mike Layton, son of the late NDP leader Jack Layton, attended on behalf of Toronto City Council.
“The statistics are disgusting,” Layton said, “that Aboriginal women are three times more likely to be victims of violence or sexual violence than non-Aboriginal women, that 50 per cent of Aboriginal women report having suffered severe family violence. And with hundreds of Aboriginal women going missing or murdered, when will our government realize that there’s something serious to be done here?”
Alex Cywink from Whitefish River First Nation in northern Ontario attended to honour his sister Sonya Cywink.
“She was 31 when she was taken, murdered in London, Ont.,” Cywink said of his sister. “I have a picture of her in my room and I do remember her and think of her almost daily. I’m here to be with the many others who share the pain that is felt by someone who has experienced this. It’s an experience you wouldn’t really wish on anyone. It’s just…it’s heartbreaking.”
Muriel Stanley Venne’s presentation to the United Nations rapporteur
Canada needs a national plan on Aboriginal women’s deaths
Shari Narine - Windspeaker Contributor HOBBEMA
Tina (Dillon) Wolfe is still grieving the loss of her friend Violet Heathen. Heathen went missing in 2009. Heathen is one of more than 600 missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls that the Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented.
“To this day, it’s still a cold case,” said Wolfe. Both women are from Onion Lake Cree Nation and both attended St. Anthony’s residential school.
“I always prayed they would find her killer.”
Canada has refused to heed the recommendation that came in September from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council to conduct a comprehensive review of violence against Aboriginal women, so Wolfe isn’t confident she, or Heathen’s family, will be getting answers any time soon. She is not surprised by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stand on the issue.
“He’s always been like that,” said Wolfe. “He’s never ever agreed to any terms. When it comes to our people, he’s more interested in helping the other people. I’m not talking racist. I’m just stating facts.”
The UN direction is just the latest received by the federal government. Last May, the premiers supported a call by Aboriginal leaders for a national inquiry into the issue surrounding missing and murdered Aboriginal women. A petition put forward by NWAC calling for such an inquiry has garnered 10,000 signatures and is to be submitted to the federal government in early December. But still Harper says no, insisting that the issue is better handled at the provincial and territorial levels.
Muriel Stanley Venne, president and founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women in Edmonton, doesn’t agree.
“It isn’t fair to say that. (IAAW) has struggled first to bring the issue front and centre, which is very difficult when people already know and have avoided, and in fact determined, that there was nothing to do. I would see that what’s needed is a national plan to deal with the deaths of Aboriginal women, and where everyone is involved because it isn’t just the deaths of the women, it’s a persecution of a people,” said Stanley Venne.
Jennifer Lord with Native Women's Association of Canada
Pilot project to bring help prevent more murdered, missing women
There is an important piece to the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal girls and women that Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Steve Courtoreille wants to see addressed.
“We have to educate our children,” he said. Educate girls on being safe and educate boys about treating girls and women with respect. “We want to send a strong message to the youth.”
The community of Fort Chipewyan, which includes the Mikisew Cree, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Métis Local 125, will be the initial host site for a day of presentations from the RCMP KARE Unit and special guest speakers.
“By the time (the girls and women) get to the city, it’s almost too late to reach out to these women. They’re so entrenched in drugs, alcohol and the sex-trade that it’s like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound at that point,” said RCMP Cpl. Joe Veraeghe, with the KARE Unit in Edmonton. KARE was formed in 2003 as a project to investigate the large numbers of murdered and missing women. It has continued as a full unit of the RCMP.
The pilot project, which Veraeghe also hopes to deliver with Frog Lake and Blood First Nations, came about through discussions with a number of Aboriginal women’s groups in Edmonton. Veraeghe suggested the in-community presentations and Courtoreille responded immediately.
“This is even more pro-active. Take it back a step. Take an education awareness campaign back to the First Nations communities and reach out to the school-aged girls and the women who are still in the communities,” said Veraeghe, who would like to see the project rolled out province-wide.
For Courtoreille and the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the personal tragedy of missing and murdered women was brought home last year when the body of Amber Tuccaro, who had been missing since August 2010, was discovered in a field east of Leduc.
Tuccaro, who had flown to Edmonton for a doctor’s appointment, did not fit the usual profile.
“It could happen to anybody,” Courtoreille said.
Lack of official data on violence against Aboriginal women no excuse for inaction
By Jacqueline Hansen
The Star - March 12
The homicide rate for Indigenous women in Canada is believed to at least seven times higher than for non-Indigenous women.
Ten years ago, when Amnesty International began researching the issue of violence against Indigenous women in Canada, we were shocked to learn that police in Canada could not answer the simple and urgent question of how many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women have been murdered or gone missing. A decade later this question remains unanswered. What’s even more shocking is the fact that the lack of official statistics continues to be used as an excuse for inaction.
There should be no doubt that Indigenous women in Canada face levels of violence that constitute a national human rights crisis. The best available data, from Statistics Canada, suggests that the homicide rate for Indigenous women in Canada is at least seven times higher than for non-Indigenous women. The Native Women’s Association of Canada has independently documented 582 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women through 2010. And the province of Saskatchewan, which to our knowledge is the only jurisdiction to have conducted a thorough review of all its long-term missing persons files to examine possible patterns of disappearance of indigenous women, found that 60 per cent of missing women in that province were Indigenous.
These numbers, however, present only a partial picture. According to Statistics Canada, in more than 60 per cent of homicides in Canada police never identify whether or not the victim was Aboriginal. This is in addition to the fact that deep mistrust between law enforcement and Indigenous communities in Canada means many Indigenous women never come forward to report crimes such as sexual assault and domestic violence.
The lack of clear and consistent data has a direct and tangible effect on the priority that police and politicians give to addressing violence against Indigenous women. This was reflected in media accounts last month in which the fact that the RCMP could not confirm the numbers of missing Indigenous women was used by some commentators to question the need for a national response.
Unfortunately, although Indigenous organizations have been raising this concern for a decade, most police forces in Canada still do not have guidelines or training to ensure that they record this information correctly. As stated in Amnesty International’s 2004 “Stolen Sisters” report, some police do not identify whether or not the victims of violent crime are Aboriginal because they fear that doing so would expose them to allegations of racism or racial profiling. Other police identify the victims of violent crime as Aboriginal only if they feel that they “look Aboriginal.”
Read more: www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary
Women’s Marches demand justice for the disappeared
David P. Ball - Windspeaker
Knock, knock, Mr. Harper.
Long-time women’s advocate Gladys Radek wasn’t surprised when the Prime Minister didn’t answer the door of his Parliament Hill office on Valentine’s Day when missing women’s family members called hoping for a meeting. It was in the wake of a blistering Human Rights Watch report, which alleged police were themselves among the perpetrators of violence against women.
But as Women’s Memorial Marches were held across the country to honour an estimated more than 600 missing and murdered women, the organizer with Families of Sisters in Spirit held a faint hope that Harper might at least acknowledge the growing crisis.
“Every day we hear a new story, a new injustice,” said Radek, who co-founded Walk4Justice following her niece Tamara Chipman’s 2005 disappeared along B.C.’s Highway of Tears. “Violence against Aboriginal women does not take a day off; it hasn’t for 520 years [of] colonization, assimilation and the outright desire for the land, water and air.
“The white people are right now almost succeeding in a silent genocide that’s taking our women, in any way shape or form. Nothing has changed in 520 years, the raping, pillaging, enslaving, buying and selling, and all-out killing our women under the watchful eye of this government.”
RCMP slammed with report on rapes, violence in B.C.
David P. Ball - Windspeaker
Canada’s national police force insists it is taking seriously allegations of widespread police misconduct and abuse against Native women, including several rapes, death threats and violence, brought forward by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In its Feb. 13 report entitled “Those Who Take Us Away,” the group documented dozens of allegations from more than 50 interviews in 10 northern B.C. communities.
“The stories shared in this report are heart-wrenching and absolutely appalling, particularly given this is only a small sample of the conditions and experiences of Indigenous women, girls and families across our territories,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. “I commend the courage of all those who’ve shared their stories, and continue to urge others aware of violence or misconduct to speak up.
“We cannot accept violence against or among our peoples. We owe it to the families who’ve lost loved ones, and to our children and future generations to achieve safe and secure communities for our kids to learn, grow and thrive.”
Meghan Rhoad, a researcher for the report, told Windspeaker she was “deeply troubled” by the allegations, not to mention the significant “level of fear” witnessed amongst complainants that police would retaliate if they stepped forward.
“In too many of the cases we heard described, there was impunity for the violence committed against them,” said Rhoad.
“I would like to see… the government and police look seriously at what they can do right now to set a new path, in terms of their relationship to Indigenous women and girls.”
RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong released a statement soon after the report’s release, promising the force would examine the accusations carefully but only if alleged victims’ identities were released or filed formal complaints.
“The RCMP takes the allegations enclosed in the Human Rights Watch Report very seriously,” she said. “The unimaginable loss and pain felt by families and loved ones of missing and murdered persons is also felt across our communities. The RCMP looks forward to working with our government and non-government partners, as well the communities we serve to provide Canadians with the professional and accountable police service they expect and deserve.”
Without named victims, Armstrong cautioned, little could be done. But with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) continuing to push with other groups for a national public inquiry into more than 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women across the country, the group dismissed RCMP demands for victims to go public–and police comments questioning NWAC’s missing women numbers themselves–as a form of intimidation.
“It appears now that the RCMP has chosen aggressive bullying tactics to re-direct public attention away from its own internal issues,” said Michele Audette, president of the NWAC in a statement. “This is another justification for NWAC’s call for a long-overdue national public inquiry that will, once and for all, look at the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, including the attitude of the police forces that should be there to protect them and not discredit the organizations that are trying to shed light on this matter.”
NWAC shocked with recent RCMP comments on CBC
Media release from NWAC - February 18
Read more: www.nwac.ca/media/release/17-02-13
RCMP questions claim of 600 missing Aboriginal women
Via CBC - February 16
The RCMP is questioning the oft-cited claim by an aboriginal group and some federal politicians that about 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada.
On today's edition of CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon says that when he contacted the RCMP to confirm that there are 580 cases of aboriginal women who were either missing or killed in the country, the force said it wasn't aware of about 500 of them.
The question of exactly how many aboriginal women are missing or killed in Canada comes during a week that included the Annual Day of Justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women on Friday, and a debate in the House of Commons that included a Liberal proposal to strike a special committee to investigate the issue. This week also saw a report from New York-based Human Rights Watch that accused the RCMP in British Columbia of abusive acts, including rape, against aboriginal women.
'The RCMP is concerned with the over 500 possible victims from the Sisters in Spirit database that have not been shared.'—Sgt. Julie Gagnon
The number 600 — used repeatedly in the House of Commons this week — comes from the Native Women's Association of Canada. In 2005, they began a program called Sisters in Spirit — a five-year research, education and policy initiative funded by Status of Women Canada – to collect data and examine the causes of the missing and killed Aboriginal women and girls. They say they documented 580 aboriginal women and girls across Canada as either disappeared or dead. That number counts cases until 2010, the year their funding was not renewed.
But spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said in an email that the Sisters in Spirit have shared the names of 118 alleged victims with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services.
Sixty-four of the 118 names were confirmed to be in a police database, while 54 could not be confirmed.
Human Rights Watch alleges Aboriginal girls and women were abused by police
Via CBC - February 13
An international human rights organization is calling on the federal government to launch a national inquiry into claims from Aboriginal women of abuse and threats by RCMP officers in northern British Columbia.
Human Rights Watch, has brought worldwide attention to victims of torture and abuse in places like Syria and Burma, says the eyes of the world should also be on northern B.C.
Two researchers — one from Canada and one from the U.S. — spent more than a month last summer in the province’s north, visiting ten communities between Prince George to Prince Rupert and hearing accounts from Aboriginal women of alleged mistreatment at the hands of police.
The researchers interviewed 50 Aboriginal women and girls, plus family members and service providers.
They heard stories of police pepper-spraying and using Tasers on young Aboriginal girls, and of women being strip-searched by male officers, said the New York-based researcher, Meghan Rhoad.
“It was very moving to sit across from these women and girls and hear them tell their stories,” Rhoad told CBC News.
Woman claims life threatened
The report suggests some of the accounts of harm done to women and girls appear to be the result of poor policing tactics, over aggressive policing and insensitivity to victims.
Human Rights watch documented eight incidents of police physically assaulting or using "questionable" force against girls under 18.
The report also contains troubling and graphic allegations of physical and sexual abuse, including from a woman, identified as homeless, who describes how police took her outside of town and raped her.
Rhoad said the woman told her the officers then, "threatened that if I told anybody they would take me out to the mountains and kill me and make it look like an accident."
Highway of Tears
The First Nation communities the research team visited are linked by Highway 16, which has been dubbed the Highway of Tears because more than 18 girls and young women have disappeared there in recent decades.
Human Rights Watch said none of the complainants are named in the report because they feared retribution. The alleged perpetrators also are not named.
Despite the RCMP's repeated requests, the group did not release the allegations to the Mounties until this week, CBC News has learned.
The disturbing report does bear some important disclaimers.
"Human Rights Watch does not contend that this information proves a pattern of routine systemic abuse," it says. "But when such incidents take place in the context of an already deeply fractured relationship with the police, they have a particularly harmful, negative impact."
The report also notes that, "the testimonies that Human Rights Watch gathered do not establish the prevalence of abuse."
Crowd mapping illustrates unsolved missing, murders of indigenous women and girls
‘Colossal failure’ by police left Pickton free to kill
By David P. Ball - Windspeaker
The release of Wally Oppal’s scathing final report from B.C.’s missing women inquiry was met with sobbing, drumming, and anger on Dec. 17 as families and friends began the next stage of grieving for their lost ones, and rights groups rallied around the call for a Canada-wide investigation.
The commissioner concluded more than a year of testimony, reports and controversy, ruling that “systemic bias” by RCMP and Vancouver police had repeatedly “forsaken” dozens of missing Native women.
In response, B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond appointed former Lt. Gov. and former Stó:lo Nation chair Steven Point to “champion” Oppal’s recommendations.
But with more than 600 missing and murdered Native women documented countrywide, (some speculate that number might be as high as 2,000) rights groups are pressing on with demands for a national inquiry.
“This inquiry dealt only with the failure of police around Vancouver to investigate and prosecute William Pickton in a timely way,” said Michèle Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. “The Oppal inquiry did not deal with all of the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls even in the province of British Columbia, and the murders and disappearances have continued.
“The Oppal inquiry did not focus specifically on Aboriginal women and girls, and the multiple factors which cause the epidemic of extreme violence against them. Because of this limitation, we need a national public inquiry that is focused on the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls in every part of Canada, which will deal with the systemic patterns and causes of the violence.”
The need for a national Public Commission of Inquiry on Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls was one of eight issues raised with the Prime Minister when delegates from the Assembly of First Nations met with Stephen Harper on Jan. 11. In December, the AFN unanimously passed a resolution at the Special Chiefs Assembly calling for action if the government continues to refuse to move forward on the inquiry. The AFN is to coordinate political rallies on Parliament Hill and the offices of political representatives where First Nations leadership and families of victims would come together. The resolution also directed the AFN to “examine legal strategies, including a Canadian Human Rights Complaint against the federal, provincial governments and policing services.” The call for action is a welcomed move for Gladys Radek, co-founder of Walk4Justice. “I’m tired of hearing we’re having more meetings to talk about this. We need a national action plan,” said Radek. Her niece Tamara Chipman went missing along the Highway of Tears in 2005.
AFN justice forum explores idea of inquiry into missing and murdered women
An Assembly of First Nations justice forum in Vancouver that began Feb. 21 was used to explore the idea of a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, said Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Phillip has been critical of the province’s missing and murdered women’s inquiry, headed by former attorney general Wally Oppal. He said the focus of the BC inquiry is too narrow, and funding for marginalized groups to take part was denied, which will render the findings of the inquiry as inadequate. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, and other Aboriginal leaders, spoke to delegates of the forum beside a table lined with candles and photos of women that have gone missing or been murdered. Atleo said a national public inquiry has long been an objective of the AFN. The forum also was used to announce a campaign and Web site, www.missingkids.ca, that will help families in their search for missing children, with the goal also of preventing further disappearances. “Too many of our children and youth were reported missing at a very young age, and we cannot and we will not lose another generation,” Atleo said during remarks about the initiative. “It is our time to step up and together ensure that our children are supported in ways that they can be safe and confident to lead the way for this and future generations.” The Web site is offered by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection with the AFN.
Forsaken - The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
Written by the Honourable Wally T. Oppal, QC Commissioner
Released: December 17
Download the full report in PDF format: http://t.co/jEcM2GnW
Too many Aboriginal women have died. It’s time for action
André Picard - Globe and Mail
How many more mutilated women’s bodies will it take? How many more haunting ghosts of the disappeared?
Some 600 cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women have been catalogued, half of them in the past decade.
There is a crying need for action. Consider that, if non-native women were dying and disappearing at a proportionally similar rate, the number would exceed 20,000. Do you think that would be a priority?
The Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations have called for a national inquiry to probe this horrific litany of slaughter and propose a national action plan.
Last Thursday and Friday, the ministers of justice, Aboriginal affairs and status of women from all 13 provinces and territories gathered in Winnipeg to mull over the idea.
The federal government refused to participate – an act so contemptuous one can barely find the words to describe it. What do ministers of the Crown who have a constitutional responsibility to aboriginal people possibly have on their agenda that was more important?
At least the provinces and territories had the courage to try, but, disappointingly, their conclusion was that they need more discussion and they won’t make a decision until at least 2014.
Bob McLeod, premier and aboriginal affairs minister of the Northwest Territories, said governments are committed to taking action to reduce violence against Aboriginal women, but before agreeing to an inquiry, they want to ensure it has a “very clear mandate.”
While the caution is understandable, the delay is unacceptable.
National inquiry on murdered and missing long overdue, says MP
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has repeated his call for a federal investigation into the unsolved cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women.
“A call for a national public inquiry, that request has yet to be heeded by the federal government,” Atleo told an Aboriginal crowd of mostly women, who attended the Sisters in Spirit rally at Edmonton City Hall on Oct. 6.
He also reiterated his call for the establishment of a National Integrated RCMP and Police Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The AFN passed a resolution in July calling for the task force, but received no support from the federal government to that end.
Atleo pointed out that the United Nations has set the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women as a priority.
Linda Duncan, New Democrat MP for Edmonton Strathcona, and former Aboriginal Affairs critic for her party, said she has lobbied Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose to invite the United Nations to Canada to talk to Elders, chiefs and First Nations about the issue.
Duncan said her party took Atleo’s call for action “very seriously. The time to act is long past.”
There's no need for an inquiry into missing and murdered women
June 29 Winnipeg Sun - Editorial
A national inquiry that looks into all of Canada’s missing and murdered (A)boriginal women would be a giant waste of time.
Despite what the chiefs would have you believe, most of these women aren’t being murdered because of the colour of their skin, nor does their race factor into why so many of these killings go unsolved. No, this is a problem of poverty and lifestyle, not race.
Police sources say Tanya Nepinak, Lorna Blacksmith, and Carolyn Sinclair were all involved in the sex trade. Drugs may have also been part of some of their lives.
That information doesn’t make their deaths any less tragic than most any other murder. Clearly, though, their lifestyle put them in danger of coming across a deranged scumbag. Those are the facts.
The chiefs and Niki Ashton aren’t interested in hearing about facts, however. They’re more interested in blaming the Harper government for all the women who have disappeared or been killed. Certainly, the Harper government has a role to play in this tragedy, as does every federal government before them.
But so do the chiefs.
Many of these women that have tragically disappeared came from reserves where corruption is rampant. They lived in poverty while woefully inadequate chiefs and band councillors made preposterously huge salaries. Home ownership was never an option for these women, as every piece of land on the reserve is controlled by the band. And there was little incentive to get an education, as far too many chiefs gave jobs based on loyalty, nepotism, and friendship, not skill.
NWAC responds to racism in media
Media release from NWAC
The Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) is troubled and offended with recent media releases and editorials, such as that put out by the Winnipeg Sun on June 29th, 2012, that perpetuates ongoing racism against the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, and in particular, against the most vulnerable group of Canadian society, Aboriginal women. Such blatant and offending articles should raise the concern and ire of many Canadians who are committed to improving relationships between themselves and Canada’s First Peoples.
“Ignorance is no excuse for the complete lack of awareness of Canadian history or of the rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada that are safeguarded and entrenched in Canada’s Constitution.” said NWAC President Jeannette Corbiere Lavell in response to this offending editorial piece. “Regardless of free speech, racism of this magnitude should not be tolerated nor allowed to be published in any media format. It is obvious that more education and awareness on the issue of violence against Aboriginal women is very much needed.”
Sadly, Canadian history with respect to the treatment of Aboriginal peoples is not something in which most people can take pride of in this country. Attitudes of racial and cultural superiority have led to a suppression of Aboriginal culture and values. As a country, past and present actions have resulted in weakening the identity of Aboriginal peoples, suppressing their languages and cultures, and outlawing spiritual practices.
Read more: www.nwac.ca/media/release/04-07-12
The Unsolved Murders of Indigenous Women in Canada
July 5th - Sebastian Moll - Spiegel online
Highway 16 in Canada has become known as the "Highway of Tears" because dozens of women have disappeared along its route. Many of them have been killed, most of them First Nation indigenous peoples. The police have shown little interest in solving the crimes.
The view from our van could be straight out of a tourism brochure. There are snow-covered peaks, forests painted in fall colors, and next to the road flows a mountain stream where fishermen are catching salmon.
As we travel deeper into this idyllic landscape, the mood of our driver, Gladys Radek, becomes darker. She plays the Patsy Cline song "If I Could See the World (Through the Eyes of a Child)," over and over again. It is a ballad about longing for a childhood like the one Gladys never had.
Gladys was born 56 years ago on the reserve for the Gitxsan indigenous people in British Columbia, but she never gets homesick as she drives along Highway 16, the "Highway of Tears."
"There are too many ghosts," she says.
The ghosts are the women who have been disappearing without a trace along the 700-kilometer-long (435-mile-long) stretch of highway. Official police statistics list 18 women in all, 17 of whom are First Nation, as much of the indigenous population in Canada is called. Amnesty International assumes, however, that there are considerably more. Not a single case has been solved.
Locked up By Day, Abused at Night
That doesn't surprise Radek. It speaks to her own personal experience. The life of a native woman like her doesn't count for much here in northern Canada, some 200 kilometers from the border with Alaska. To her, it's clear what must have happened: The women were picked up on the stretch between the reserves, the gold mines and the logging camps, raped, killed and dumped along the side of the road.
We arrive in Prince Rupert, where the Highway of Tears reaches the Gulf of Alaska. Unemployed indigenous people hang around in dingy coffee shops. Almost all of the fish-processing plants that once employed many in the town have shut down. There was too much competition from Japan.
Radek is uncomfortable. She doesn't like this place. When she was a small child, her foster father spent the summer fishing in the harbor. Radek spent her days locked below deck on the boat, until he came for her in the evening.
It was here, at the entrance to town on Highway 16, that her niece Tamara disappeared five years ago. She was 18 years old. A ghost.
UN will support Aboriginal women by studying the violence that surrounds them
The federal government has balked at the push to secure a commitment of a national inquiry into murdered and missing women, and the chance to learn more about the violence that surrounds Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. But the United Nations is tackling the issue head on.
“This year, our new topic is murdered and missing Aboriginal women. It is our upcoming assignment and we will be looking at it globally,” said Chief Wilton Littlechild, who was recently appointed president/rapporteur to the UN’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He has served on EMRIP since 2011.
EMRIP, which meets in Geneva, provides the UN Human Rights Council with thematic advice in the form of studies and research on the rights of Indigenous peoples. Last year, EMRIP presented recommendations on four “very important agenda issues,” said Littlechild: The planning of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; the rights of Indigenous people to participate in decision-making; the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of Indigenous peoples; and the undertaking of a questionnaire to seek the views of the UN members on best practices regarding possible appropriate measures and implementation strategies to attain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Expert witnesses will be called on to look into the barriers Aboriginal women face in the justice system, from investigations to the courts to incarceration.
“These issues I’m familiar with (nationally and) I can deal with from a global perspective,” Littlechild said.
He emphasizes that his focus will be on more than what is happening in Canada. Littlechild, who also serves as commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will hear from expert witnesses ranging from Indigenous peoples to academics in his coverage area of North America, western Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
EMRIP will make recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council based on the information it gathers.
But the Canadian government isn’t looking for similar guidance from its Aboriginal groups.
Dolls remember beauty of the life lived
Hope and hopelessness is what Cree Elder Lillian Shirt says came through as relatives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls made dolls in memory of their loved ones.
“The hope that their loved ones are somewhere out there, that they will be found alive,” said Shirt. “The hopelessness is that hoping they didn’t suffer.”
Families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls came together earlier this month getting strength and support from each other as they shared their stories and decorated dolls.
“It’s a memory. Like making their journey clothes as we do in our traditional burials, making their journey clothes, they’re all sewn by hand,” said Shirt. A meal followed the doll-making workshop and Shirt likened that to the journey feast “for the ones who have gone ahead.”
“Family members … find the project is very healing,” said Jennifer Lord, strategic policy liaison with the Native Women’s Association of Canada. NWAC is the only national organization with a team working to raise awareness and do research on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Edmonton was the sixth stop for the NWAC faceless doll project which was designed to put action to words. The workshop is based on artist Gloria Larocque’s Aboriginal Angel Doll Project. Larocque, who is from Sturgeon Lake First Nation but lives in Vancouver now, was in attendance in Edmonton.
NWAC’s Evidence to Action team determined that people wanted a more hands-on approach to bringing attention to the issue. Collaborating with Larocque, NWAC created the simple six-inch flat felt dolls to be completed in a one hour workshop. Participants decorate the dolls as they wish. Some dolls are finished elaborately using beads and feathers, some in jingle dresses, while others are done simply.
“We want to add value, reclaim that image of an Aboriginal woman being strong and beautiful,” Lord said.
This hands-on project is one way NWAC is addressing the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The organization is also studying why so many of the 582 documented cases from the 1980s and on have occurred in the western provinces. However, Lord noted, the issue impacts straight across Canada.
AFN justice forum explores idea of inquiry into missing and murdered women
An Assembly of First Nations justice forum in Vancouver that began Feb. 21 was used to explore the idea of a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, said Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Phillip has been critical of the province’s missing and murdered women’s inquiry, headed by former attorney general Wally Oppal. He said the focus of the BC inquiry is too narrow, and funding for marginalized groups to take part was denied, which will render the findings of the inquiry as inadequate. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, and other Aboriginal leaders, spoke to delegates of the forum beside a table lined with candles and photos of women that have gone missing or been murdered. Atleo said a national public inquiry has long been an objective of the AFN. The forum also was used to announce a campaign and Web site, www.missingkids.ca, that will help families in their search for missing children, with the goal also of preventing further disappearances. “Too many of our children and youth were reported missing at a very young age, and we cannot and we will not lose another generation,” Atleo said during remarks about the initiative. “It is our time to step up and together ensure that our children are supported in ways that they can be safe and confident to lead the way for this and future generations.”
Drawing attention to the plight of missing, murdered Aboriginal women
Shari Narine - Sweetgrass
These dresses were among the 100 or so to be hung around the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton and along Saskatchewan Drive as part of the REDress Project. The project, created by Jaime Black, a Métis artist from Winnipeg, is meant to draw attention to the high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in the country.
Families look for answers about their murdered relatives
Shauna Lewis - Raven’s Eye
Nearly 300 people battled the rain to attend Day One of the Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry Oct 11, but instead of filing into Vancouver’s Federal Court building, a crowd gathered in the street in protest of what many say is a flawed inquiry process.
The inquiry is to examine the police investigation of the murders of serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton.
“I feel like I have a target on me,” said Gloria Larocque, a 42-year-old mother and member of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation. “I’m an Aboriginal woman that is afraid for her and her daughter’s life,” she said.
Larocque was wearing a placard with a bulls-eye on it. She also built a life-sized coffin from cardboard and garbage bags, which she placed in the middle of the street as a symbol of the miscarriage of justice that she felt the inquiry had become.
She said the injustice that families of the murdered women have endured throughout the Pickton police investigation is nothing short of racism and sexism against all women.
“I’m here to support the ladies,” one Carrier First Nation man said quietly. Protester Marvin Dennis was one of the hundreds that formed a large circle on the street directly below the eighth floor court room where the inquiry had begun, stopping traffic for more than two hours at Vancouver’s busiest intersection.
While police, lawyers and friends and family of the murdered women filed into the inquiry, Aboriginal leaders, sex worker advocates, human rights activists and dozens from the First Nations community remained outdoors, drumming and singing and filling the streets with echoing chants for justice and Commissioner Wally Oppal’s resignation.
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