Grand Chief Gordon Peters issued the following statement regarding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada.
Sonya’s Story – Sonya Nadine Mae Cywink
Sonya’s story is one that is all too familiar to Indigenous people in Canada. She is one of hundreds of Indigenous women that have either been murdered or has gone missing in Canada. In the RCMP’s National Operational Overview, a comprehensive account of missing and murdered Indigenous women, it highlights that 1,181 Indigenous women have gone missing or were murdered between the years of 1980 and 2012. Indigenous women represent 16% of the women who were murdered in Canada, but only make up approximately 4% of the Canadian population. These statistics highlight the argument of Indigenous people that are women are being targeted.
Violence against Indigenous women and children is only part of a greater problem of the perception of Indigenous people in general. If we look back at the history of colonization with the repeated attempts to strip Indigenous people of their culture we will realize that this is just another attempt. Indigenous women are discriminated based on race and gender and often don’t have equal access to services that could keep them safe. We can trace discrimination towards Indigenous people back to the doctrine of discovery. The doctrine of discovery is used to justify European domination over Indigenous lands and people. Since the doctrine of discovery can only be applied to uncivilized areas, Indigenous people were thought to be less than human. This attitude is still prevalent today under the Indian Act, which make Indigenous people second class citizens. This belief in the doctrine of discovery is what the Canadian government and other settler government used to justify their actions towards Indigenous people.
What is needed?
More organized efforts like the evening vigil being held at Ivey Park in London, on Saturday, August 23rd that honor and remember murder and missing Indigenous women and girls. We have to stand together to make the world a safer place for Indigenous women and children. There needs to be more resources for those who are at risk of being targeted for violence. Emergency services are needed for those who want to leave unhealthy situation. There needs to be more awareness about this problem.
The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians supports the efforts to educate and bring awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women have recently received international attention via the United Nations Report by Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Special Rapporteur found that despite action at both the federal and provincial levels there is a consistent call across the country by Indigenous people for a comprehensive national inquiry. The Native Women’s Association of Canada continues to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women despite their funding being cut by the federal government. The research used by the RCMP was similar to the database complied by the Native Women’s Association in 2010. Awareness to this human rights crisis needs to continue. All Canadians should be aware of the violence perpetrated against Indigenous people, but especially women and children.
What we can do?
We can lend our voice to those who are no longer with us by supporting the call for a National Inquiry. A National Inquiry will bring more attention to this human rights crisis that is affecting Indigenous women and children. We need the federal government to recognize the severity of the issue and recognize that although there are federal and provincial initiatives to help Indigenous women – it is not enough. More importantly, we need to educate our young people about the role of women within our families and communities. Women have important roles and responsibilities in our communities and they need to be respected. The most important thing we can do is continue to honour our women. We need to honour them and show them that their lives are worth living. We need to honour their memory when they have been taken away from us. One way we can do this is by supporting the community driven database started by No More Silence. The purpose of this database is to honour our women and provide family members with a way to document their loved ones passing.
What AIAI is doing?
AIAI continues to support the Native Women’s Association of Canada and its Sisters in Spirit research project on the missing and murdered women. AIAI agrees that there needs to be a coordinated approach with the government of Canada and RCMP in approaching the issue with an independent Indigenous body providing guiding oversight. AIAI will continue to advocate on behalf of missing and murdered Indigenous women by calling for the reinstatement of the funding for the Sisters in Spirit research project. AIAI will also advocate by sending letters to the Prime Minister and Department of Justice outlining our support of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Sonya’s tribute is available for viewing here.
AIAI is mandated as a Provincial Territorial Organization (PTO) to defend and enhance the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of our seven member First Nations. Our member nations include: Batchewana First Nation, Caldwell First Nation, Delaware Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and the Wahta Mohawks. Learn more at www.aiai.on.ca, on Twitter@AIAI_comms and on Facebook.
For more information, please contact Suzanne Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519.281.6238.