Friday 7 June 2019


If you click your mouse over the underlined words, you will get more information.

Canada is the home to a diverse group of Indian tribes. Many Indians living in Canada are Inuit or Metis. In addition, the First Nations people also live throughout Canada. According to the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, there are three prominent groups of Aboriginal people formally recognized by the government. Together, these are the Inuits, the Metis, and the First Nations people.

The First Nations citizens are the largest tribe of natives in Canada. Over 600,000 Canadians consider themselves a part of the First Nations tribe. Over 70 languages comprise the linguistic aspect of the First Nations tribe. The First Nations flag is created with the traditional Canadian flag. There are three bold stripes, including a red o­ne o­n either side. In the middle there is a white stripe that features a portrait of an Indian chief.

The Inuit Indians are the least populated Indian group in Canada. About 45,000 Canadians self-identify as part of the Inuit tribe. When the Europeans first arrived to Canada, they tragically caused the deaths of many Inuits. Many of the whalers and explorers brought new diseases that had never been experienced by the Inuits, thus they did not have immunity to fight against the diseases. Recently, the Canadian government has begun to recognize the Inuits by building schools in its areas of residence in Canada. Unfortunately, however, the Inuit Indians do not qualify for treaty benefits. 

Over 292,000 people identity themselves as part of the Metis tribe in Canada. The Metis people prefer to define themselves o­nly by the word "Metis" as opposed to Aboriginal. Some of the smaller tribes within the Metis tribe include the Ojibway, Algonquin, and Menoiminee people. There are o­nly two prominent languages found within the Metis tribe and spoken frequently by the Metis people, which are Metis French and Michif. All native people in Canada are referred to as the Indigenous people. Aboriginal women and girls make up just 2 percent of the population in Canada.

In this article, I am going to deal only with the issue of the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada. 

The widespread killings and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls in Canada are now referred to as a “genocide” for which Canada itself is responsible according to a national inquiry that concluded in its final report on June 3rd 2019.  The report’s 231 recommendations includes changes to police practices and the criminal justice system.

The report came after a nearly three-year inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, during which more than 1,500 families of victims and survivors testified at hearings across the country. 

“This is genocide,” said Marion Buller, the chief commissioner of the inquiry and a retired Indigenous judge, at the ceremony, which was held at the Canadian Museum of History directly across the Ottawa River and the Canadian Parliament.                      

It cited, among other events, Canada’s onetime practice of forcibly sending thousands of Indigenous children to government-and church sponsored residential schools, where the children were abused over many decades. In the 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the report called that practice a “cultural genocide.”

The report said that the police and the criminal justice system have historically failed Indigenous women by ignoring their concerns and viewing them “through a lens of pervasive racist and sexist stereotypes.”  

The Report said that  police “apathy often takes the form of stereotyping and victim-blaming, such as when police describe missing loved ones as ‘drunks,’ ‘runaways out partying’ or ‘prostitutes unworthy of follow-up’” It also said that survivors and their families told the Inquiry that they often found the “court process inadequate, unjust and traumatizing.”

The Report said that to help improve law enforcement and prevent violence against women, it called for expanding Indigenous women’s shelters and improving policing in Indigenous communities, in particular in remote areas; increasing the number of Indigenous people on police forces; and empowering more Indigenous women to serve on civilian boards that oversee the police.

It also called for changing the Canadian Criminal Code to classify some killings of Indigenous women by spouses with a history of violent abuse as first-degree murder, whether they were premeditated or not.

I am not convinced that is legal since it conflicts with Section 15  of the Canadian Charter of  Rights that guarantees  equal treatment before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.

The report offered a damning indictment not just of the killers but of a country that has too often allowed them to act with impunity.

Indigenous women and girls make up about 4 percent of Canada’s females but 16 percent of the females killed, according to government statistics.

As many as 1,181 Indigenous women were killed or disappeared across the country from 1980 to 2012, according to a 2014 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Indigenous advocates, and the report, say the number is probably far higher since so many deaths have gone unreported.

The national inquiry was convened after the body of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation, was found in the Red River in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2014, wrapped in a duvet weighed down with 25 pounds of rocks.

Her death and the subsequent acquittal of the main suspect in it brought about outrage and protests across Canada, as well as calls for an investigation into why so many Indigenous girls and women were dying and/or missing.

The case attracted particular attention because Ms. Fontaine had been in contact with provincial social workers, the police and health care professionals in the 24 hours before her death.

I am convinced that the police were of no help to her. When I lived in Winnipeg in the 1950s, I saw an Indigenous young man laying face down on a snow bank. When I told a police officer what I saw, he replied, “He’s probably drunk.” Then he walked away.  He didn’t see if the man was dying or dead or neither.

Tina Fontaine had am older sister. Her name was Amber, age 20, who also disappeared in August 2010. She was the mother of a 14-month-old son. She vanished after hitching a ride. Her remains were later found in a farmer’s field and her killer has never found.

Whoever is murdering these women and girls, they think they can kill them and nothing will come of it because their victims are  just Indigenous women and girls.  

If these victims were Caucasians instead of Indigenous, it is my opinion that the missing victims would be found sooner. It isn’t because the police would be more thorough in their searches. It is because searching for missing Indigenous women and girls in the wilderness is harder than in cities. That is because it is harder to hide bodies in a city.

Considering the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, this means that there has to be many serial killers in the areas where these victim’s bodies were found. What I don’t know is whether or not these criminals are Indigenous or Caucasian killers or maybe both.

The sad irony of these deaths sheds light on human rights issues in which the problem of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have been quietly brewing for years in Canada that is  a nation that is progressive and which it is  generally known for treating its citizens including its women and girls in a decent manner.

Some of the murders date back to the 1950s, however, the majority of the murders took place between 1990 and 2013.

This problem is part of a larger phenomenon of violence against women and girls. It’s such a complicated issue, we have to look at every facet of this problem with a special focus on systemic racism.

There isn’t one answer to this problem and there isn’t one person or group who can address this problem. It has to be everybody’s problem including the First Nations governments, the provincial governments, , the national government and the problem for the police to deal with.

Despite the overwhelming numbers of Indigenous missing women and girls and their deaths, the Canadian government has been slow to respond to the crisis. If it had acted much earlier, most of  these unfortunate victims would in all likelihood still be alive today.

Earlier in 2019, a much-anticipated parliamentary report looking into the problem of violence against women was tabled by Canada’s then ruling Conservative Party. The report made 16 recommendations to address violence faced by Indigenous women, but it stopped short of calling for a national plan of action to deal with the growing problem of missing and murdered women and girls in a meaningful way.

While the report noted that “the scope of violence is not fully understood, nor is it quantified”, the former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper’s government had decided to  ignore calls for a national inquiry, despite pressure from native organizations, international human rights groups and all of Canada’s provincial premiers.

The parliamentary report was “basically a slap in the face” to indigenous people, said Shawn Brant, a First Nations activist whose community, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, has launched a campaign of civil disobedience in Ontario to force the government to address the high numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women in that province.

How can any government create an action plan when it doesn't really know the extent of the problem?  I think it’s fair to say that the federal government and the provincial governments and the police  had engaged in a plan of indifference to the truth of what was really was happening to indigenous women and girls.

 Considering the absence of a national inquiry, it was hard to know why so many Indigenous women and girls in Canada have actually been murdered or gone missing.

According to a Human Rights Watch study that was released  in j2018, at least part of the problem appears to stem from the broken relationship between indigenous women and girls and the Canadian justice system. In other words, the prosecutors and judges didn’t take this problem seriously.

That report also found that many indigenous women have suffered mistreatment and abuse by law enforcement officials and also indifference to their concerns. The result brings an environment of mistrust and a feeling of insecurity by the police that is heightened by a lack of adequate police oversight. 

Subsequently, the status quo is a state of constant insecurity for the indigenous women and girls who face threats to their lives and feel they have nowhere reliable to turn to for protection.

Picture this scenario. A young Indigenous woman goes to a police station and tells the police officer at the front desk that she is being followed wherever she goes by a man she doesn’t know. The officer tells her that it must be her imagination. She is disheartened and then she leaves the station and she is never seen again.  

According to Canada’s Human Rights Commissioner. David Langtry, the issue of violence against Indigenous women in Canada can also be attributed, at least in part, to the country’s historical relationship with indigenous citizens of our society.                                                  
Back in the 1950s, I was a senior boy’s supervisor in three Indian residential schools in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. And when I saw the older boys after they graduated from grade twelve and were living in the cities I lived in, I was dismayed how they had great difficulty in getting jobs notwithstanding that they had a grade twelve education just before they left those schools. They were seen wandering around the main streets begging for money because no one would hire them. They were suffering from the indifference of the employers who chose to hire  only Caucasians.  
Although the last residential schools closed in the 1990s, systemic abuse and government-sanctioned racism has left Canada’s indigenous groups and particularly women and girls more vulnerable to violent crime, homelessness, substance abuse and other social ills than the rest of the population in Canada have to endure.          

This is a problem that has tremendous complexity and deep roots in Canadian history,” said Langtry, who has joined in the calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. “We believe that the conditions of disadvantage faced by aboriginal people are among the most pressing if not the most pressing human rights issue facing Canada today.”        I agree with that statement.

I am not sure if we will ever solve the problem of the missing Indigenous women and girls since in my opinion, as I said earlier, it is highly unlikely that their bodies will ever be found and even more unlikely that we will eventually find their killers.

What we have to do is to make sure that this genocide of Indigenous woman and girls comes to a halt and more efforts are undertaken by governments and that the police forces will take this problem seriously thusly sparing the lives of the remaining and upcoming Indigenous woman and girls yet to be born.

What makes me sad is that these victims may be the children and/or grandchildren of the children I worked with in the 1950s when I was a senior supervisor in the three Indian Residential Schools in Saskatchewan,  Manitoba and Ontario.         

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