I have dedicated my life and career to advancing the rights of women and yet quite often I am reminded of how far we still have to go. Nothing reminds me of this more of this in Canada then our missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
According to Canadian Police Information Centre there are 1,559 missing women cases in Canada. Sisters In Spirit, a research, education and policy initiative facilitated by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and funded by the Government of Canada until its dismantling in 2010, reported that there are more than 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. This number reflects the fact that Aboriginal women are 3 times more likely to experience partner violence than non-Aboriginal women.
What is it about numbers that make us feel so numb? Why did it take such high numbers for any action? 582 lives have been stolen and we remain paralyzed despite the fact that ‘missing’ and ‘murdered’ may involve rape, assault, pain, torture, and, most definitely, fear. No words can effectively articulate the horror these women have faced.
When women are targeted and not assured the necessary levels of protection in the face of that violence, a range of their fundamental human rights are at stake: the right to life, the right to be protected against torture and ill treatment, the right to security of the person and the right to both sexual and racial equality.
Despite desperate cries for a national commission of inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the federal government continues to belittle the issue, opting instead for funding dedicated to police initiatives that track missing persons in general, and a special committee to examine the issues of missing Aboriginal women. This response by the federal government remains insufficient considering the scale and severity of this tragedy; Canada needs big, bold moves. Only a national commission of inquiry will be thorough enough to facilitate long-lasting, positive change. National commissions of inquiry are led by distinguished individuals, experts or judges, and have the power to subpoena witnesses, take evidence under oath and request documents. Although a commission of inquiry’s findings and recommendations are not binding, many have a significant impact on public opinion and the shape of public policy. A national commission of inquiry is the best vehicle to ensure the rights of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada are protected.
Please join me in supporting a national commission of inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women.