By Monique Kasonga
Image Credit: Amnesty Canada
When discussing genocide, Canada is definitely not the first country that comes to mind. Indigenous people have been targeted from the beginning of colonial Canada, displaced and awfully treated by the Canadian government with the goal of assimilation. There are many systemic factors that play into the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada. For example, outdated documents such as the Indian Act— a document that summarized the goal of residential schools as to “kill the indian in the child”—are still in use. In many cases, when governments look back on past mistakes, they will work to fix them and reconcile with their victims. However, this is not the case for issues surrounding Indigenous communities in Canada. Because the Indian Act is still in place, its stance behind the superiority of the western lifestyle will persist, fueling colonial attitudes that justify policies continuously targeting Indigenous communities.
Indigenous peoples, more specifically women, are missing and murdered at disproportionate rates. If the role of a democracy is to allow citizens to represent and govern their country, how can Canada call itself a true democratic country when such a large group of its people is systemically neglected by their government?
Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Canada is a human rights crisis only recently becoming a topic of discussion within national media. This ongoing tragedy potentially threatens all Indigenous women and girls from many communities and cities across Canada. According to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls from 2017, “Indigenous women are between 3 to 3.5 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than other women.” This is not what a democracy should represent. Without strong Crown-Indigenous relations (the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous peoples), the racism and misogyny in perpetuating violence against Indigenous women will continue to be overlooked. Historically, Indigenous women have been hypersexualized and held to dangerous stereotypes that still exist in many facets of Canadian society today.
The Canadian Human Rights Act is supposed to protect Canadians against harassment or discrimination when based on one or more grounds such as race, age and sexual orientation. The government’s neglect for Indigenous issues violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. Indigenous peoples and many Canadian allys still recognize the basic inequalities that exist for these communities as well as Canada’s lack of effort in overcoming the systemic racism contributing to the disappearance and murder of these women. Many women who are reported missing experience discrimination for being Indigenous and their reports are overlooked. Even when hundreds to thousands have taken to the streets and protested to demand justice for these women, their efforts did not see extensive success. When the cries of Indigenous communities are constantly ignored, this becomes extremely undemocratic.
In 2014, the RCMP acknowledged in a report that there have been nearly 1,200 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women between 1980 and 2012, although several Indigenous women’s groups document the number of missing and murdered to be over 4,000. This raises the question of where the truth lies. Why has it taken so long for these women to receive justice?
MMIW is a crisis that has been taking place since the start of colonial Canada where there were white male colonizers who raped Indigenous women. This was justified because Indigenous women were regarded as “savages” and less than human. The federal government has not supplied ressources for investigations into this hidden genocide and many other issues that surround Indigenous communities, such as inadequate housing, lower education levels, high rates of unemployment and more. There needs to be a true attempt to restore what was taken from Indigenous people during the early colonization and for this crisis to end, the systemic racism that exists within Canada and its government must be addressed. Though this is a task that will take much time and resources, it is crucial that Canadians recognize its importance and advocate for the removal of its discriminatory policies. “The Indian Act is now 144 years old. Perhaps I will live long enough to see its eradication.” said Kerry Benjoe, from the Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation for CBC News and these are words that all Canadians should reflect on.
Canada is a country that is admired throughout the world for being a strong, equal and free nation. But how can this be true when these missing women’s livelihoods are being neglected and their human rights are not being protected? Indigenous peoples can no longer be mistreated and the inadequate police response to violence against Indigenous women must be addressed by the federal government. On this basis, Indigenous communities must be offered the proper protection and support every other Canadian is entitled to.
Feel free to visit this link where CBC News has created a database of profiles of Indigenous women who have been involved in cases of death or disappearance.