Inaction on our missing, murdered Aboriginal women is unacceptable

jasminekabatayJasmine Kabatay
Art Director

Maybe things will change when the next Aboriginal woman vanishes or is murdered.

We see women as healers and a valued part of who we are. The creator made women with the gift of bringing life and keeping families together, making them very important to my culture, which is based in Seine River First Nation in Northern Ontario and many other reserves across Canada.

That’s why missing and murdered indigenous women are a huge problem in Canada. Throughout the years, there have been thousands of cases of Aboriginal women reported missing or murdered – at a rate of five to seven times greater than for women in the general population – and most haven’t been solved. From the available reports, they’re either suspicious deaths, suicides, or there was no trace of them left.

This is unacceptable.

There have been organizations across Canada who have tried to raise awareness for this issue, especially in Northern Ontario where the rate of missing and murdered women is high, with more than 20 cases around the Thunder Bay region alone.

Walking With Our Sisters, Sisters in Spirit, No More Silence, and Full Moon Memory are just a few of the many organizations raising awareness for this.

Walking With Our Sisters is a visual piece that travels across Canada and the United States, showcasing thousands of unfinished moccasins to represent indigenous women that are missing or murdered. Seeing this in person was overwhelming, especially when two of my aunts are a part of the missing and murdered statistic.

Something that really got to me, was when a young Aboriginal woman was killed in Toronto last July just three months after graduating from Humber College. It shook me to the core reading about the similarities we shared both in family and academically.

Her story, goals and ambitions were eerie. It reminded me so much of myself and all the things I want to do with my life. She will never be able to experience that, but I will. I have never related to someone so much, and I’ve never even met her.

A database launched in July was sparked by the death of this Humber fashion arts student, Bella Laboucan-McLean, after she fell 31 storeys from a condo in downtown Toronto, documenting deaths of murdered women across Canada. Her death still hasn’t been solved after a full year of investigation, and the list of unsolved tragedies isn’t finished at all.

So what’s the deal? Why are there more and more cases coming up and none of them being solved?

One of the most recent cases was 15-year-old Tina Fontaine from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was found in a bag in the Red River after having been in contact immediately before with police and medical workers.

It was enough for people of the First Nations communities to take a stand. But unfortunately, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not up for the challenge.

Harper recently rejected the calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, saying “we should not view this as a sociological phenomenon.” Well, isn’t it? My aunts are a part of that list, with one found murdered and one that apparently “froze to death” close to home. Their deaths are still a mystery for my family to this day.

Canada’s prime minister was okay with sending Canadian troops to Africa to bring back the 276 abducted school girls, but won’t even call a national inquiry for some 2,000 missing and murdered and women in our own country.

That is enraging.

I have seen the effects this has on people in my reserve, in my family, and on friends.

There is a problem and nothing is being done for it.

I don’t want to see another statistic and more importantly, I don’t want to be another statistic.