Last week, I was invited to sit on a panel to support an Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls alongside Dr. Dawn Lavell Harvard, (President, Native Women’s Association of Canada), Delilah Saunders (sister of Loretta Saunders), Gladys Radek (aunt of Tamara Lynn Chipman and founder of Tears4Justice) and Matt Smiley (director of the film, Highway of Tears).
After viewing Smiley’s film, we discussed the implications of an Inquiry, underlying factors as well as the reflection of the actions in Val D’or Quebec. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/val-dor-police-aboriginal-women-march-1.3287744).
While other panelists spoke of personal experience as well as legislative action, I brought a youth and grassroots activist perspective. I talked about how stereotypes and the reinforcement of them contribute to systemic violence; I provided ways in which everyone can contribute when legislative means are not accessible, including art submissions, letter writing to Halloween stores and learning history from the people.
We acknowledge that our women are girls are not born at risk, they are put at risk by a system (government, foster care, education) that continues to run along the assimilation stream. While it is true that residential schools have closed and women no longer lose their status by leaving the community, other methods have developed from environmental violence, lack of nation-to-nation discussion, poor education and inadequate funding.