“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” Malcolm X
The premiers of Canada have decided that society doesn’t need a national inquiry into the heinous problem of murdered and missing Onkwehón:we/Aboriginal women. Mr. Atleo was unsuccessful in convincing them to make a commitment to a national inquiry, bit it is important to remember that it is in their interest to stonewall any kind of national inquiry. One need only look at and remember that the Indian Act was created by a patrimonial culture which targeted the authority and roles of women of our nations delegating “Indian” status a patrilineal “right” and disrupting the family units even further by forcibly removing children from our communities.
For several years now, Aboriginal women have been asking for a national inquiry, long before AFN became interested in this issue. It then sparked the AFN Women’s council to become involved in the issue, and rightly so.
The Harvard Project on Native American Indian Economic Development has stated that economic investment cannot succeed in communities until the problem of violence is eliminated or dealt with profoundly. Is this why the federal government and the premiers are stalling the process and waiting for yet another costly conference to discuss what Aboriginal women have known for years?! Yes that’s what we need is more conferences to come down the road while in the mean time the problem is getting worse not better.
When the Minister of the Status of Women Canada, Rona Ambrose announced in late October 2010, that the Native Women’s Association of Canada had their funding cut to the Sisters in Spirit research, they also informed NWAC that they could no longer use the name of SIS. Minister Ambrose also announced that the money allocated for research would be diverted to the RCMP, one of the culprits in this problem according to Amnesty International’s “Stolen Sisters” report of 2004. The falling of the axe was heard right across the country by Aboriginal women’s families who have been touched by this problem rooted in colonial laws, policies and attitudes.
The reality is that leaving without a commitment for a national inquiry is beyond the ability of Mr. Atleo and the AFN. what needs to be understood is that it is in the economic interest of the federal, provincial and territorial governments along with their authorities, to continue to stonewall an actual national inquiry into the murdered and missing Aboriginal women.
Why, because of the Indian Act and the evidence they now have that by continuing to target Aboriginal women by remaining apathetic to this crisis situation, they can continue to keep our communities off-balanced, continue to disrupt our family units and prevent us from taking positive action in decolonizing ourselves and our relationship with governments.
The reality is that the Treasury Board decides any course of action any level of government takes. If it is not economically beneficial to government to have a national inquiry, then they won’t initiate or conduct one.
Like all issues affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada, the “bottom line” is always the reasoning of Government as to whether or not they will act. As self-determining peoples, it is up to us to initiate any inquiry, stop the violence and maintain the pressure upon leaders to take action without allowing the government to take the lead. Canada and its premiers are obviously not interested. The excuse the premiers are making in their “wait and see” attitude of how some of the provinces will handle their inquiries, like BC is buying time to a human rights problem that Canada has been criticized numerous times by the international community
Unless there is a political will at all levels of government and within our own communities, Aboriginal women and their families will continue to be marginalized, ignored and re-victimized by the system that set out to destroy them to begin with, the Indian Act and the government that created it in 1876 and the government that continues to use it against us to control us.
All citizens of Canada and all Indigenous peoples living in Canada must pressure the political leaders, the authorities and the international community to help deal with violence perpetrated against Indigenous women.
The generalization that many of these women were prostitutes or drug addicts is irrelevant. As one elder put it, all are human beings who are loved by their families, they are mothers, sisters, aunties and friends. Just look at the case of Helen Betty Osborne a young Cree woman who had dreams of becoming a teach and who had her life taken by 6 white men. they brutally treated her then killed her, why because she was an Onkwehón:we woman and they knew that it didn’t matter what they did, they wouldn’t be punished. And they were right as even the RCMP knew who here killers were for years but they did not arrest them. this perpetuated the notion that any kind of crime can be committed against an Aboriginal woman with impunity.
During the 200 year anniversary of Quebec City several years ago, I was asked to represent NWAC in a meeting with all the national Aboriginal organizations, which included AFN. The premiers told us that we had to pick one issue as a priority: the premiers agreed to put Education as their top priority in discussions with the federal government. Years later we know that their commitment was hallow as they never did act upon it. Their lack of commitment for a national inquiry therefore is not surprising. More words that sound nice, but do not resolve the issue.
Colonial authorities have no vested interest in resolving this terrible problem as they know what root causes for violence is; their colonial legislation and policies. Amnesty International stated that the root problems lie within colonialism, the policing authorities and their apathy, which places Aboriginal women in a category as “disposable” within Canadian society. (See Amnesty International’s Stolen Sisters report of 2004)
Actions not words speak volumes. If AFN is truly sincere about dealing with this problem then they must work the Aboriginal women leaders who have been working on this problem for years. They must support educators to create curriculum that demonstrates to our youth and children that violence is not part of our cultures. We can no longer wait for an apathetic and paternalistic government to take the lead. Each of us in our own way must be part of the solution. Otherwise if we wait for the funding to come our way, we will wait a long time and then maybe by that time it will be an even bigger challenge to resolve this issue. I hope that AFN and all our women leaders will work together on this issue, with or without the funding.
We know what needs to be done and the solutions need to incorporate human rights and our traditional teachings of respect, honesty and integrity.