Living Beyond The Culture of Silence

In October 2004, Amnesty International Canada and the Native Women’s Association of Canada under the leadership of Alex Neve and Terry Brown shook our world when they revealed the first report on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women entitled: Stolen Sisters.

Stolen Sisters was written in collaboration of these two organizations and was written by Bev Jacobs and Craig Benjamin. It is their hard work and passion for justice that revealed the despicable state of of Indigenous peoples’ human rights due to institutionalized racism in Canada. Rooted in colonial superiority the marginalization of Konón:kwe (Indigenous) women is exhibited in Canadian society through racist attitudes and government apathy with fatal consequences . STOLEN SISTERS 2004 essentially set the groundwork for the advocacy we see today regarding MMIW and we have these two individual organizations and the authors of the report to thank for that. So with honour and respect I want to acknowledge Bev Jacobs, Craig Benjamin, Alex Neve and Terry Brown for their pioneer work for our peoples.
It is evident that there is a lack of political will in Canada’s current fascist government to properly address this issue even though various UN Human Rights agencies have called upon Canada numerous times to develop a National Plan of Action and inquiry into murdered and missing “Aboriginal” women. These include the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) , the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Organization of American States, as well as Canada’s UN Periodical review conducted every 3 years.
Lack of political will by Canada and indeed, its provinces on the serious human rights violations of Indigenous peoples indicates that the war against Indigenous Peoples remains undeterred from its original intentions of the 500+ year old land grab. And the imperialist’s war against an identifiable group of people (Genocide) must continue if it is to continue to justify its support of the theft of Indigenous peoples’ lands and resources for their various pipelines projects like “Energy East”, and Keystone XL.
And while the RCMP have written their own report on the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women (MMIW), the hypocrisy of it leaves a sour taste from the fact that this is one of the agencies mentioned in the Stolen Sisters report of 2004 as being part of the problem. Mr. Harper’s “government” has no intention of dealing adequately with this issue, evident when he granted the research funding of “Sisters in Spirit” of NWAC to the RCMP in November of 2010. Was NWAC’s Sisters in Spirit research getting too close to the truth of a conspiracy between government, its’ agencies and corporations? Fascists need to continue to use their tried and true tools to complete the land grab justifying it with press conferences and press releases that profess to “provide jobs” and energy security using Indigenous peoples’ lands and resources.
The infamous Indian Act 1876 was created to “control” the “Indian “population, and arrogantly/illegally created a colonized definition of who was an “Indian” in order to target the basic foundations and strengths of our identity: the family unit through the role and authority of the women.
Back in 2004 when Stolen Sisters was released the majority of the male leadership didn’t feel this was an issue of priority as they were not fully informed of the complexity of the issue. But I’m glad that most have seen the light and are making concerted efforts with Indigenous women and their organizations to have this problem addressed. After all, violence is not part of our cultural values but is instead an effect of colonial self-hatred stemming from the Indian Residential School system (IRSS) and colonialism.
Murdered and Missing Indigenous women remains a major human rights issue and requires all of society to become educated on how to resolve this violation through education, love, respect and compassion.

The numbers quoted by the RCMP belie the human tragedy found within this modern day catastrophe of human rights violations. The source of the stats, from the culprits whose apathetic attitude allowed the killers of 19 year old Cree student, Helen Betty Osborne in The Pas, Manitoba, to walk free for years until justice was brought forth. It is a firm example of the Culture of Silence that remains in Canada that encourages and perpetuates the erosion of the human rights of Indigenous women and girls.
However, even in our own communities the culture of silence prevails, but there are huge cracks emerging. The IRSS and the oppression embedded within the implementation of the Indian Act by the Indian Agent and clergy, perpetuated this culture of silence that has disrupted the health and well-being of the family unit and attacked the vitality of our languages and cultures, our traditional governments and our lands and resources.  We are all familiar with “don’t tell” in our families and communities, a relic of the genocidal attack upon the daily lives of our ancestors by government, their authorities and their agencies.

The culture of silence was necessary if assimilation was to succeed. It was a major factor in the perpetuation of this problem that found for our nations falling into such disrepair that it took this long to discover that there was a serious catastrophe happening in Canadian society to the mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and nieces of our Nations.  While we know that in the past 3 decades that the number is approximately 1200, it is unfathomable to think how many if we are to include the time period from the start of the IRSS.
Indigenous women have long been at the forefront of efforts to decolonize and promote the rights of our peoples. Starting in 1974 when women like Mary Two-Axe Early of Kahnawà:ke started “Indian Rights for Indian Women” which eventually evolved into the Native Women’s Association of Canada and its provincial and territorial affiliates. Women like Sandra Lovelace and others, who addressed the UN on the gender discrimination embedded in the Indian Act, paved the way for Bill C-31.   Unfortunately, the greatest resistance for equality, has been some of our own people.  Therefore it is no wonder PM Harper chooses to make this an economic issue rather than a human rights issue given the strength and determination of Indigenous women.  PM Harper’s apathy exemplifies the centuries old story of greedy elites and their land grab through attacking the women and the family unit.
But it is going to take more than political will and RCMP reports to deal with this issue.  It is going to take a great deal of education to protect and promote the rights of Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and indeed throughout the Americas.
It’s a sad reflection upon the validity of Indigenous women’s voices and efforts that it takes the RCMP to provided the public and politicians with the justification needed to taking any ‘action,

it is also hard to trust the RCMP’s motivation as being altruistic given the fact that the status quo of colonial paternalism is flourishing instead of a genuine process of “Reconciliation” and recognition and respect for Indigenous peoples’ inherent rights.
Neither the RCMP nor the government of Canada, has yet to implement a plan of action to profoundly address this issue in spite of a 2006 Chiefs of Police Annual General Assembly resolution that called for at least a protocol for authorities to follow regarding MMIQ.
I realize that there must be exceptions within the RCMP of those who want sincere change, but the solution requires major changes in the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada.  It requires education on the true nature and history of colonial Canada and it requires the respect of the government of Canada for the rule of law, and Indigenous peoples right to self-determination and inherent rights. This latest report from the RCMP is like the Indian Residential School Apology of June 11, 2008, words on paper with no action to follow.
Along with the history of the IRSS in the curriculum of schools and post-secondary institutions, there needs be mandatory workshops to educate anyone who wants to becomes a politician in Canada before taking office. 

Children and youth need to be educated and guided  on how to break the cycle of violence.  They need the role models who demonstrate the strength and courage needed to make a significant change in the course of our history.  Otherwise we are setting them up to repeat the past. 


An Injustice Anywhere, is an Injustice Everywhere

STOP ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE including those against Mother Earth and all our relations.


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