August 10, 2007

Justice is Not Colourblind: International Blog Against Racism Week

A spring Amnesty International USA report showed that more than one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes (a statistic that makes them more than 2.5 times as likely to be raped as other U.S. women). Suspects often go free due to a lack of nurses and "a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions." The report also indicates at least 86% of the reported sexual assaults of Native women are by non-Native men.

Here in Canada the intersection of race and gender prejudice is every bit as brutal. According to a 1996 Canadian government statistic, Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as a result of violence. In 2004 Amnesty International released a report called Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada. Stolen Sisters studies the cases of nine murdered or missing Native Canadian women and girls and links the high levels of violence experienced by Indigenous Canadian females to deeply rooted patterns of social, economic and political marginalization. In "every instance, it is Amnesty International’s view that Canadian authorities should have done more to ensure the safety of these women and girls."

While covering the 1996 trial of John Martin Crawford (who was convicted of murdering three indigenous women in Saskatoon) journalist Warren Goulding commented: “I don't get the sense the general public cares much about missing or murdered aboriginal women. It's all part of this indifference to the lives of aboriginal people. They don't seem to matter as much as white people.”

Reactions to recent aboriginal protests aimed at raising awareness of native poverty, high suicide rates and unresolved land claims illustrate the astounding level of apathy many feel towards Native Canadians in 2007. The below comments were found on the Canoe news website:

“You lost the war, face it.”

“We need to stop funding them when stuff like this happens. Slowly bleed them into "equality" instead of spoiling them with free money.”

“You sold out, you are now the minority, deal with it, if not pay the consequences.”

“Actions by Native groups like closing roads or seizing housing projects....hurts individual Canadians.”

“They're unable to do anything for themselves anymore. All they do is complain about everything. I agree with Mike Harris when he (supposedly) said 'get those indians out of there!' ”
“If any other tax paying citizen pulled a stunt like this they would be in jail so fast their heads would spin.”

Clearly some Canadians feel Native health, safety and security are beneath their concern, only on their radar when aboriginal people are actively protesting and even then, only as a nuisance issue. Obviously our country needs a comprehensive history lesson, positive political action, remedial sensitivity training and a huge dose of basic human empathy. Our Native girls deserve to grow up taking their safety and well-being for granted. Canadians who composed the above messages evidently have no idea just how far aboriginal women and girls (and their brothers, partners and sons) reside from this ideal.
Helen Betty Osborne
murdered November 12, 1971
Shirley Lonethunder
missing since December 1991
Pamela Jean George
murdered April 17, 1995
Janet Henry
missing since June 28, 1997

Sarah de Vries
missing April 14, 1998; confirmed dead August 6

Cynthia Louise Sanderson
killed August 30, 2002

Maxine Wapass
missing May 17, 2002 confirmed dead in February, 2003

Felicia Velvet Solomon
missing, March 25, 2003 confirmed dead October, 2003

Moira Louise Erb
missing August 2, 2003; found dead September 17, 2003

 
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