Posts Tagged ‘missing and murdered aboriginal women’

Winnipeg, Aug. 24, 2014: Some of the people camping out in Memorial Park to call for a national inquiry into the deaths or disappearances of over 1200 aboriginal women. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Some of the people camping out in Memorial Park to call for a national inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of over 1200 Aboriginal women. Photo: Paul S. Graham

The hatred directed at aboriginal people in Canada is appalling, as is their poverty and exclusion from the opportunities that exist for non-indigenous Canadians. Nowhere is this more evident than in the federal government’s continuing refusal to hold a national inquiry into the causes of the deaths and disappearances of over 1200 aboriginal women. Now, aboriginal women are beginning to speak up for the aboriginal men who have disappeared over the years.

My latest video explores some of this.

To connect with the Protest Camp on Facebook, click here.


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Winnipeg, Oct. 12, 2013: Jingle dancers ready themselves to welcome the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Oct. 12, 2013: Jingle dancers ready themselves to welcome the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Canada: Thousands gathered at the intersection of Portage and Main Street to welcome the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya, with a Jingle Dance. Speaking in this clip are Jo Redsky and Michael Champagne, activists in Canada’s Idle No More movement.

Among the many issues outstanding between the First Nations and the Government of Canada is the refusal of the federal government to hold a national inquiry into the documented murders or disappearances of over 600 aboriginal women in Canada. Stephen Harper has been distinctly cool towards the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur, but until the Canadian government takes serious steps to address the needs of Canada’s First Nations they will continue to seek support in the international arena.

Oct. 4, 2013: Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to remember the lives of 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, 75 of whom came from Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Oct. 4, 2013: Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to remember the lives of 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, 75 of whom came from Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature on Friday afternoon to demand an national inquiry into the causes for the disappearance or death of over 600 indigenous women in Canada in recent years. The demonstrators repeated a longstanding demand for a for national inquiry, something that has gained the support of all provincial premiers and territorial leaders, but which continues to be rejected by the federal government.

Appearing in this video report are Rosanna Deerchild, Chief Francine Meeches,  Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Raven Hart-Bellecourt, Robert Animikii Horton, Jo Redsky, Sierra Noble, Dana Foster and Chief Cathy Merrick.


Churchill MP Niki Ashton gave an impassioned speech at the July 11th Winnipeg rally for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. In addition to posting the video, I’m providing a transcript because it neatly sums up this ongoing tragedy and the Harper government’s decisions that have served only to make matters worse.


Winnipeg, July 11, 2012: Churchill MP Niki Ashton speaking at a rally in support of provincial and national inquiries into missing and murdered aboriginal woman in Canada. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Our message is clear. There is an epidemic of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

Let’s look at those statistics. Over 600 aboriginal women missing. One aboriginal woman is three-and-a-half times more likely to experience violence than a non-aboriginal woman. A young aboriginal woman is five times more likely to die from violence than a non-aboriginal woman in Canada.

But this isn’t about the statistics. It’s about the daughters, the sisters, the mothers, the grandmothers, the friends that have gone missing. It is about the broken families and the broken communities and the people that are grieving. And it is time to recognize that we need action. We need a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

International organizations have spoken out. Amnesty International — even the United Nations – are beginning to understand and have said they understand the magnitude of this issue.

But where is our federal government? Not only have they failed to recognize the magnitude of this tragedy, they have cut the programs that would help to be part of the solution — the loss of Sisters in Spirit, the cuts to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the loss of the National Aboriginal Health Organization, the loss of the Women’s Health Network, the loss of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the loss of the First Nations Statistical Institute.

We need action and we need to find out what’s going on. We need an inquiry that will look into the underlying causes of why aboriginal women face so much violence.

The debilitating impact of a residential school legacy, crushing poverty, Third World living conditions on First Nations, overcrowding in housing, the lack of access to education and health care —

My message to Stephen Harper is: “Mr. Harper — if you’re not part of the solution, YOU are part of the problem.”

But in this darkness there is hope. There is hope that, with an inquiry and a call for action and a commitment to that action, we will be able to prevent this violence from continuing to take place. And more importantly, there will be an ability to bring justice to the memories of the women that have been missing, that have been murdered — to their families, to their communities.

So we are here and we are not asking. We are demanding that there be a national response to a national epidemic. We are demanding a national inquiry. And we will not rest until we hear from the federal government — until there is a national inquiry to finally put an end — so that no aboriginal woman — no woman — dies because she is an aboriginal woman — in a country as wealthy as Canada — in the year 2012 and beyond. Thank you. Meegwetch.


More: Video: Manitoba’s Grand Chiefs demand provincial, national & international inquiries into missing & murdered women


Winnipeg: July 11, 2012: Three of the several hundred demonstrators who marched through downtown Winnipeg demanding public inquiries into the the deaths and disappearances of 600 hundred indigenous women in Canada. Photo: Paul S. Graham

More than 600 indigenous women in Canada are believed to have gone missing or been murdered in recent years.  The slowness of governments to act and the lack of progress where governments have acted have spurred Manitoba’s aboriginal organizations to demand full-scale provincial and national inquiries.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and the Southern Chiefs Organization have written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging that he hold a national inquiry that would look at all aspects of the issue.

The Chiefs have sent a parallel request to Eric Robinson, Deputy Premier of Manitoba and Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs. Both letters are available on the web site of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

So far, Manitoba’s and Canada’s governments have shown no interest in public inquiries. Manitoba’s Justice Minister, Andrew Swan, claims he does not support an inquiry because it could “get in the way of a criminal investigation” that led to the arrest of Shawn Cameron Lamb on charges of killing three aboriginal women in Winnipeg.

The Chiefs hope that will change if their efforts to have the United Nations become involved bear fruit. Says MKO Grand Chief David Harper, “The province will not inspect itself, Canada will not inspect itself . . . We’re going to the United Nations.”

The AMC, MKO and SCO held a rally in Winnipeg on July 11, 2012. Several hundred Winnipeggers marched from the Forks National Historic Site to the TD Centre near the corner of Portage and Main in support.

Here is some of the video I shot at this event. Featured in this video clip are Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, respected community elder Mae Louise Campbell and David Harper, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

In this clip, Winnipeg City Councillor Ross Eadie makes an impassioned plea for justice for Aboriginal People, declaring “We are all Treaty People!”


Winnipeg, Feb. 14, 2012: Protesters pause outside the Department of Indian Affairs in Winnipeg to sing and dance during the Men's Gathering and Unity Walk for Missing and Murdered Women. Photo: Paul Graham

Winnipeg, February 14, 2012: A group of aboriginal men held a march to show solidarity with the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. While the march was organized by men, there were no restrictions on who could attend – all were welcome – and there was a good turnout of men, women and children of all ages.

Feb. 14, 2012: Protesters outside the Law Courts Building in Winnipeg during the Men's Gathering and Unity Walk for Missing and Murdered Women. Photo: Paul Graham

The march began at the corner of Carlton Street and Portage Avenue, the site of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and wound through downtown Winnipeg, stopping at the Department of Indian Affairs, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Law Courts Building, before ending up at the Manitoba Legislative Building. Despite the marked police presence (several squad cars, a helicopter overhead), the marchers remained peaceful and good spirited. I use the word “despite” because it was clear the marchers would have preferred the cops to be putting their energies into catching killers and finding missing women.

While some estimates put the number of missing and murdered women at 600, no one really knows. What is clear is that not nearly enough is being done to locate these women and to stop the carnage.

Feb. 14, 2012: Protesters in front of a symbolic hearse at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg during the Men's Gathering and Unity Walk for Missing and Murdered Women. Photo: Dwayne Crowe

Here are some links that can help you understand this issue in more depth:

And here is my video report.

Marchers in Saskatchewan in July 2008, in the "Walk for Missing Sisters" to raise awareness about missing aboriginal women, children and men. Photo: Native Women's Association of Canada

It is tragically ironic on this day, declared by the United Nations to be “for the elimination of violence against women,” to read that the UN has called on Canada to properly investigate the disappearances and murders of over 500 aboriginal women that have occured since 1980.

According to a Canadian Press article, in today’s Winnipeg Free Press

The United Nations is calling on the Harper government to investigate why hundreds of deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women remain unsolved.

It’s asking Ottawa to report back in a year on the status of more than 500 cases that “have neither been fully investigated nor attracted priority attention, with the perpetrators remaining unpunished.”

The UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against women wants Canada to “urgently carry out thorough investigations” to trace how and why the justice system failed.

A federally funded $5-million study by the Native Women’s Association of Canada concludes that 510 aboriginal girls and women have vanished or been murdered since 1980. It calls for an emergency strategy.

This report from the UN is more evidence that the failure to investigate these disappearances is part of a larger, systemic failure to address violence against women, generally. According to the article

The UN committee also wants Ottawa to set minimum standards for welfare to better protect the most vulnerable citizens across Canada. And it raises alarms about lack of shelters for battered women, and Conservative government cuts that wiped out the Court Challenges Program — funding that helped advance minority rights.

Worldwide, according to a UN factsheet,

The most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. On average, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime.

This two-page factsheet is a grim litany of the most abominable crimes against woman that contains disturbingly little on what is being done to end them.

Violence against women is so pervasive that it is easy to feel overwhelmed by it all and seek solace in the knowledge that we are not directly involved in harming women. However, as Albert Einstein reportedly observed:

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

So, if you are not already involved, start doing something about it by learning about the aboriginal girls and women who have vanished or been murdered since 1980. You can begin at Missing Native Women.ca. You can help hold Harper accountable by signing a petition, here. And you can get a swack of info at Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action.

And then there’s that matter of the war, where we are helping the Americans save the women and girls of Afghanistan, by dropping bombs on them . . .