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Abuse, violence, murder, genocide, etc:

Attacks on Aboriginal girls &
women in North America.

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Database of missing Indigenous girls and women:

There is no agreement on the exact number of indigenous women who have disappeared or been found murdered in Canada.

Some families of victims organized the Highway of Tears Symposium in 2006. It made 33 recommendations. Few were ever implemented. 4 (The Highway of Tears is a 720 km / 447 mile) section of British Columbia Highway 16 which extends across the north of the province from Prince George west to Prince Rupert on the Pacific Ocean.) Many aboriginal First Nations are located at or near the highway, and many girls and women have gone missing or were murdered on or near the highway.

Annita Lucchesi, is a PhD candidate at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, Canada. She identifies as Southern Cheyenne and is assembling a database missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in North American between the year 1900 and now.

Interviewed by Calgary Today, she said:

"It’s been a labour of love. three years in the making so far, and I don’t have an intention of stopping anytime soon. People have asked me when the project will stop, and my answer has always been, ‘When native women stop going missing and being killed'." 1

Luchessi estimates that, since the beginning of the year 1900, 25,000 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been killed in the U.S. and Canada.

She said:

"I think it’s important to go that far back because, even though awareness of this issue has been growing, especially in the last decade or so, this is something that has been affecting Indigenous communities for quite some time. And so collecting more thorough data will show that the number is much higher than anyone realizes or wants to admit. ... "

"My work is on mapping the issue and really bringing the data to Indigenous communities, giving them a chance to work with it, and draft maps to create an atlas telling stories of this violence."

"Not just the location of where these things happen, but also to tell the story in a way that is meaningful to us as Indigenous people."

She has created a map showing the locations of marches during 2018 where people protested missing and murdered indigenous girls and women. 1,2

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2014-MAY: Royal Canadian Mounted Police release a report:

The RCMP issued a statistical report on 1,181 cases of female homicides and missing persons in Canada. It found that although only 4.3% of the country's populaton is composed of aboriginal women, they account for 16% of all female homicides and 11.3% of allmissing women in the country! 6

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2014-AUG: Missing teen's body found:

Tina Fontaine, 15, an aboriginal teenager had run away from her home and was reported missing on 2014-AUG-09. Her body was found in the Red River on 2014-AUG-17. She had been murdered, wrapped in a bag, and covered with rocks. 6

Raymond Cormier was arrested, and charged with her second degree murder. He was found not guilty on 2018-FEB-22. The next day, more than 1,000 people demonstrated in Winnipeg and demanded a public inquiry.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said that Tina's murder galvanized Canadians to demand measures to stop the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She said:

"The families of these women and girls — and the whole country — need answers to the systemic and institutional failures that lead to the murder of Tina Fontaine and far too many other Indigenous daughters, mothers, sisters, aunties, and friends."

“We need to examine all the factors that lead to these violent acts, including policing, child welfare, healthcare, and the social and economic conditions." 8

After Tina Fontaine’s death, the Canadian Human Rights Commission requested a full inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. 9

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2016-SEP: Canadian Federal Government launched an inquiry:

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was launched. Its mandate was:

"... to gather evidence, and to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors." 5

The anacronym "2SLGBTQQIA" stands for 2-Spirited, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning , Intersexual, and Asexual. (Apparently in error, some sources refer to the "A" as referring to "Ally.")

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2018-JUN-01: A personal cross-Canada walk to honor missing and murdered indigenous women:

3

Matthew Jefferson is a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. He is walking across Canada to increase awareness of the murdered and missing indigenous woman in Canada. Frances Brown, his aunt, disappeared during 2017-OCT while she was picking mushrooms with a group near the "Highway of Tears.

On 2018-JUN-01, Jefferson left Victoria BC on the West coast of Canada. One year later, on 2019-MAY-30, he had walked 7,241 kilometres (4,599 miles) and had reached Saint John New Brunswick. His goal is Cape Spear, Newfoundland, on Canada's East coast.

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2018-JUN: The leader of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police pledged that the RCMP would "do better" in the future:

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki who heads Canada's national police force -- the RCMP -- apoligized to the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women. She said:

"On behalf of myself and my organization, I’m truly sorry for the loss of your loved ones and the pain that this has caused you and your families and your communities. ... I’m sorry that for too many of you, the RCMP was not the police service that it needed to be during this terrible time in your life. It is very clear to me that the RCMP could have done better and I promise to you we will do better."

During the more than 12 months of testimony at the MMIWG, multiple stories surfaced that inicated that some police forces were not taking aboriginal cases seriously. Victims were often viewed as sex trade workers or drug addicts.

The RCMP has added more indigenous content to its cadet training curriculum.

Commissioner Lucki said that she wants the cadets to get exposure to those situations. She said:

"Given some of the things that have come out of the testimonies, it’s important that they have recognition of the cultural sensitiveness of these investigations and the importance of knowing what to expect with these investigations."

Heather Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said:

"By having this training, the awareness, for our people, the measuring is going to be when the harassment stops. Then we’ll know it has succeeded. Today, these are words and these are attempts, so I guess the test of time is what I’ll be watching." 8

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2019-JUN-03: The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry delivers its final report:

At Gatineau, Quebec the inquiry delivered its final, 1,200 page report to the federal government during a ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec. It contains 231 "calls for justice."

A condensation of the report is available online. 11

The report says, in part:

"It must be understood that these recommendations, which we frame as 'Calls for Justice,' are legal imperatives -- they are not optional. ... [They] represent important ways to end the genocide and to transform systemic and societal values that have worked to maintain colonial violence. ... Each person has a role to play in order to combat violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA ... people. Beyond those calls aimed at governments or at specific industries or service providers, we encourage every Canadian to consider how they can give life to these Calls for Justice."

Some families of missing and murdered persons are concerned that with the closing of the National Inquiry, the funding to various victim support services will end. One of these groups is the Family Information Liaison Unit (FILU) which guided the families through the inquiry by offering traditional healing, home ceremonies, communication in native languages, and by speaking with police and government on the families’ behalf.

The federal government has extended funding for the FILU and twenty community-based organizations to 2020-MAR-31. It may extend the deadline.

Ian McLeod, a spokesperson for the Federal Department of Justice, said:

"We will look to identify ways to strengthen existing policies and programs and consider new actions and partnerships that will increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. This includes identifying ways to increase access to culturally grounded and trauma-informed supports and services for Indigenous victims and survivors of crime, and family members of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls, such as the Family Information Liaison Units model." 12

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said:

"To this day, the safety, security, and dignity of Indigenous mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends are routinely threatened. Time and again, we have heard of their disappearance, violence, or even death being labelled low priority or ignored." 14

He promised that his government will conduct a thorough review of the report and will develop and implement a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.

He had been called upon to refer to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls a "genocide." Instead, he said that it is "not a relic of Canada’s past" and that the justice system has failed them. 14

However, later on JUN-03. he addressed the Women Deliver 2019 conference in Vancouver. He said:

"Earlier this morning, the national inquiry formally presented their final report, in which they found that the tragic violence that Indigenous women and girls have experienced amounts to genocide. ... The strength of the families and the survivors who bravely shared their truths have shown us the way forward." 15

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A national support line has been created:

A toll-free support line has been made available to provide help. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at: 1-844-413-6649. 13

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Adam Toy, " ‘Labour of love' to map North America’s missing, murdered Indigenous women," Global News, 2018-AUG-23, at: https://globalnews.ca/
  2. "Missing and murdered Indigenous women," Wikipedia, as on 2019-JUN-03, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. "Ceremony will commemorate release of MMIWG report citing issue as ‘genocide," Global News, 2019-JUN-02, at: https://globalnews.ca/
  4. "Highway of Tears," The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2019-JAN-18, at https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/
  5. "National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls," home page, at: http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/
  6. "Missing teen murdered, dumped in river: police," Global News, 2014-AUG-18, at: https://globalnews.ca/
  7. Canadian inquiry calls deaths of indigenous women 'genocide'," Yahoo Canada, 2019-JUN-03, at: https://ca.news.yahoo.com/
  8. Ryan McKenna, " 'I’m sorry': RCMP pledges at MMIW inquiry to do better on Indigenous issues," The Canadian Press, 2018-JUN-25, at: https://globalnews.ca/news/
  9. Katie Dangerfield, "How the tragic death of Tina Fontaine helped spark the MMIWG inquiry," Global News, 2018-FEB-23, at: https://globalnews.ca/
  10. John Paul Tasker, "Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women issues final report with sweeping calls for change," CBC, 2019-JUN-03, at: https://www.cbc.ca/
  11. "231 'imperative' changes: The MMIWG inquiry's calls for justice," CBC, 2019-JUN-02, at: https://www.cbc.ca/
  12. Elizabeth McSheffrey, " 'You can’t put a time period on grief': Families fear program closure after MMIWG inquiry," Global News, 2019-JUN-02, at: https://globalnews.ca/
  13. "Contact Us," MMIWG at: http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/
  14. " 'This is genocide': Final MMIWG report says all Canadians have role in ending violence," Global News, 2019-JUN-03, at: https://globalnews.ca/
  15. Jesse Ferreras, "Trudeau changes course, says ‘genocide’ when citing MMIWG report’s findings," Global News, 2019-JUN-03, at: https://globalnews.ca/

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2019-JUN-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
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