NOTE: I originally wrote most of this post a couple years ago but this is sadly still a problem and something that still needs to be discussed. The reason why I wanted to revisit this topic is because the CBC recently released a second season of their podcast “Missing and Murdered”. This season is about an indigenous family in Canada trying to find their sister, Cleo. I recommend listening to that podcast to better understand this issue and the systematic trauma that many indigenous people have had to experience and continue to deal with.
Canada and the United States have both been exceptionally horrible to the indigenous and native populations of this land. For generations and generations, we’ve broken treaties, stolen children, committed cultural and physical genocide, live on stolen land. Violence against indigenous and native women is unfortunately a part of our history and current narrative in both countries. And it’s a national disgrace.
*I do want to say that this is a rough topic to read about – it deals with rape, abuse, death, and other forms of violence. Just as a warning.
Some estimates say that missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada number around 4,000 and indigenous women are almost seven times more likely to be murdered than other women in the country. 4,000 is just an estimate though – finding exact numbers can be difficult for many reasons including under reporting. But even with that, it’s important to remember the murdered and missing indigenous women and work towards a future where these women are protected and honored.
And the US has a similar trend of violence against native women – an Amnesty International report has found that 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped and are more likely to be raped than non-native women. And finding help can be incredibly difficult for native women. All Things Considered has a segment about this issue from several years ago but it does get graphic in its description.
In early, 2016, the government of Canada has stepped up and launched an inquiry into this violent problem. The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke at an Assembly of First National special chiefs gathering in December of 2015, making promises to look into this problem. And one of the first provinces to really take that step is Ontario, which recently pledged $100 million toward a three year program dedicated to investigating the roots of this violence.
Since laughing that inquiry a few years ago, the commission behind it has held almost 250 public, in camera, and community hearings around Canada and has heard from more than 760 witnesses. This inquiry isn’t without faults (having families register their own missing and murdered family members for example) or hiccups and while it was initially supposed to wrap up at the end of this year, the commission has asked for a two year extension to provide a more in depth investigation.
This is an incredibly difficult but important topic to talk about. And it’s just as important to listen to indigenous women who are talking about this issue and many others. Here are some articles and resources from native women on many different topics:
- These 4 Phenomenal Native Women Will Totally Make You Re-examine Your Relationship to Feminism – Taté Walker
- The Woman Behind Marlon Brando’s 1973 Oscars Protest Says Hollywood Still Sucks – Deborah Coughlin
- We Can’t ‘Get Over It’: 4 Ways Understanding Past Wrongs Can Create Better Indigenous Allies – Taté Walker
- Tina Fontaine Is Further Proof That Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Need Justice – Nahanni Fontaine, Teen Vogue
- The National Voice of Indigenous Women in Canada has resources for folks to better understand the problem of missing and murdered native women and girls.
- The CBC has a project on the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. To find out more, click here. To listen to the CBC podcast ‘Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo’, click here.