A near unanimous chorus of support from Aboriginal leadership from First Nation to
First Nation across the whole of Turtle Island asked for an Inquiry into the epidemic of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. On March 15th we in the Niagara First Nations community decided to send a message to our local Federal officials and to the Big Crown though no officials responded directly to our invite. We were covered in local print media and CHCH picked up the event to help raise awareness. To this very day we are all doing everything within our power to stem this epidemic.This is the 824 Word Letter that I wrote to (at the time) Justice Minister Peter Mackay and all Big Crown leadership urging them to listen to the chorus of voices asking for an inquiry:
I am writing in support of the call for an inquiry into Missing or Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls, and want to know what you and your colleagues plan to do about it as the Minister of Justice and the Canadian government respectively.
When you look at the history of these lands, if you go back far enough there was a period where First Nations were the sole human inhabitants. At the heart of these nations’ governments were the women in the communities. They were and are given special leadership status that recognizes their unique ability to give life and nurture healthy communities.
Now this land is called Canada and is controlled by men. The Prime Minister, yourself, the leader of the opposition, most MP’s, CEO’s, most decision-makers in the modern culture of Canada are men. Modern Western society is rooted in this tradition and while no doubt strides have been made to improve the social and economic status of women in Canadian society there are still glaring discrepancies.
The headlines of the Canadian news landscape are littered with stories about the disdainful “rape culture” that always was prevalent in post-secondary institutions, but is only now coming to the forefront as an issue that Canadian society needs to address.
The wages of a woman doing the same amount of work as a man in an equivalent position are still lower. TV shows, movies, politics, most high-profile positions of visibility depict men as being the dominant gender. This is modern Canada, and while things have been improving, in Canadian society women do not enjoy the same benefits as men. Traditional First Nations are quite the opposite. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the longest standing functioning democracy in the entire world, has had women’s sulffrage that pre-dates Canadian women’s suffrage by centuries.
These same Haudenosaunee when forming their government of checks, balances, and representation by consensus of all the people acknowledged that the woman,
who is the center of the community, is the one who should be enabled the most
to make sound decisions in the best interests of her people.
This created a generous, strong, kind and honest society with a thriving economy that was balanced with nature. Things may not have been perfect in pre-settler times, but the picture that is painted of First Nations before colonial contact and the introduction of the Western world’s ways is very different from the one that is painted currently. At every turn in history the Haudenosaunee government has advised its people to honour its founding principles of peace, power and a good mind.
To this day the traditional leadership works tirelessly to hold up those principles, because women are the traditional leaders, and the center of a healthy family that breeds healthy communities, healthy villages and towns and healthy nations. Being given the gift and responsibility to bear, nurture and raise children into strong healthy people was and is the foremost responsibility of the Native woman. This is the traditional way of First Nations.
Regardless of this cultural bedrock, First Nations societies have been dominated
by Canadian societal ways and now these communities are plagued even worse
than the rest of Canadian culture by this unsought dominance and imbalance. An
aboriginal woman is four times as likely to be murdered as a Canadian person.
824 First Peoples families, according to a report in the hands of the RCMP, have
been victimized by missing or murdered women or girls in recent years and a call
for an inquiry has been ignored or lumped in with other general crime initiatives.
Most recently, Loretta Saunders, a three-months-pregnant Inuk grad student, who had submitted to write a thesis on missing and murdered indigenous women for Saint Mary’s University, was found slain on the side of the TransCanada highway. Aboriginal women are turning up in dumpsters, by the side of the highways, in alleyways, hospitals and the morgue at alarming rates.
This is at epidemic levels. This problem surpassed critical mass decades ago, and it needs to take a priority position on the agenda of the government of Canada. I understand that this government is a “law and order” government that is laying down the law and being tough on crime. What I don’t understand is where the justice is. Isn’t justice more than reforming the antiquated and ineffective prison system, cracking down on “illegal” activities like “contraband” tobacco and drugs, and laying down the law Isn’t part of justice founded in the principles of moral rightness, fairness and equity?
If there is planning for equity in justice, then please tell me what the Canadian government plans to do about the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. How are you prepared to work to right this wrong? What kind of justice will these women get?
Please consider addressing my 824 words of concern for the 824 Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women.