The Invisible Women of Canada - Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

The Invisible Women of Canada - Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

March 8 was International Women's Day. I was going to write a post celebrating the women in my life who have influenced and shaped me for good and for ill.

But I'm not.

Because there are women in my country, Canada, who need support. Because the current Conservative government is failing each and every one of them.

Image Credit: 416style, via Flickr

I'm talking about the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

According to Canadian government statistics, Indigenous women are five times to seven times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence. The Native Women's Association of Canada has documented more than 580 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, most within the last three decades. Because of gaps in police and government reporting, the actual numbers may be much higher.

Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist, sexist violence against First Nations, Inuit and Metis women in their homes and on the streets. But government response has been shockingly out of step with the scale and severity this tragedy. [Amnesty.ca]

I like to consider myself fairly informed. I am politically aware, I read the postings on Facebook groups that deal with topics such as feminism, racism, religion and gender.

The treatment of Indigenous people here in Canada shames us worldwide. I have seen and heard the racism that Indigenous people face day to day in this country. That the Government isn't listening to them and is just going about it's merry settler ways saying "We know what's best for you." See Education Reform

I didn't, however, know about the missing and murdered Indigenous women. I had never heard that this was such an epidemic until last year when I was exposed to an ad in my local mall sharing the stories and photos of some of those women.

From the Native Women's Association of Canada:

Through the five-year Sisters in Spirit initiative (2005 – 2010), NWAC was able to identify 582 missing and/or murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. Continued tracking of occurrences have indicated that the numbers continue to climb; recent reports now list over 800 incidents of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

On February 14, 2014, NWAC delivered a petition signed by over 23,000 Canadians in support of NWAC’s call for a National Public Inquiry and National Action Plan.

How had I never come across this before? Where are the news stories, the outraged editorials, the petitions and the protests by the general public? How can we justify ignoring what is happening in our own country but devote so much time and effort to fighting injustices in other parts of the world? How do people NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?

Media Portrayals of Missing And Indigenous Women gathers together information on why media pays so little, or so biased, attention.

In her essay ”Symbolic and Discursive Violence in Media Representations of Aboriginal Missing and Murdered Women” Jiwani studied seven years’ worth of articles about Aboriginal women in the Globe and Mail. She found that coverage of Aboriginal women clustered around stories of violence, conflicts with band governments, custody cases, poverty and poor health status. Overall, Aboriginal women were portrayed as “abject victims of poverty” and “inept drug addicted mothers who did not seem to be capable of maternal feeling.” She argues that these stereotypes emerge not only because of the topics that made news, but because little social or historical context is ever given to explain the causes or circumstances. Instead there is a tendency to focus on how benevolent government agencies are trying to help. She writes “this kind of reportage seals a particularly criminalizing representation of Aboriginal identity.” Even stories that highlight the success of Aboriginal women tend to reinforce this stereotype by making the women appear exceptional only because they have escaped the trappings of their culture.

Our current Conservative government is failing Canada's Indigenous population. Even the UN is condemning us on human rights. "James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, painted a grim picture of the conditions facing First Nations, saying Canada is facing a "crisis" when it comes to its treatment of indigenous people." - CBC.CA "Anaya also called on the federal government to launch a "comprehensive and nationwide" inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women, something the federal government has so far refused to do."

In fact, just over the last few days, the Conservative government over the protest of both Liberal and NDP supporters, tabled documents asking for that same inquiry.

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