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Aboriginal women face major issues in the modern world arising from aspects of colonial history of Canada. This is inclusive the imposition of relative patriarchal system, more specifically in former egalitarian native societies. According to the statistics of 2006, about four percent of the entire Canadian populace is the Aboriginal people (Vancouver Police Department & the Women’s Memorial March Committee, 2011). Currently, the population is far younger compared to that of non-Aboriginal. Approximately, half of the population is under 24 compared to 31% of non-Aboriginal population. The percentage of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada is deemed a national tragedy. Aboriginal descent women aged between 24 and 44 years are exposed to violent deaths 5 times compared to women of other descent (Vancouver Police Department & the Women’s Memorial March Committee, 2011). Violence against women is more rampant than in other Canadian families. It involves social, cultural and economic factors. These factors, often play out in significant number of the Aboriginal women who are annually exposed to cases of violence. The current statistics of murdered and missing Aboriginal women creates the need for coordinated response and national attention. This paper will address reasons why the government will never provide a truthful inquiry into the murdered and missing Aboriginal women.
Violence against aboriginal women has proven to be one of the most significant problems they face in substantial proportions (Knopf, 2008). Despite increased number of disappearances and murders of the Aboriginal women and girls, the Canadian government has not exercised due diligence and its obligations to bring perpetrators to justice. The government as well has failed to make implementations on comprehensive plans that can make sure these women are protected (Knopf, 2008). This includes some measures like coordination across its jurisdictions, disaggregated data systems, accountability systems as well as training protocols. The social and economic marginalization of Aboriginal women along with the history of the Canadian government policies that contribute to unravelling indigenous communities, have pushed a large number of women into dangerous situations (Anderson et al, 2010).
Such cases are associated with disappearance cases, murder, prostitution and homelessness. The social and economic marginalization as well exposes Aboriginal girls and women to violent perpetrators. Part of the reason the Canadian court and police have failed to stop sexualized and radicalized violence against Aboriginal women is their vulnerability. The cycle of violence cases that are unresolved combined with poverty and deprivation faced by Aboriginal women relates to a large degree to higher rate incidents related to the law more than general population (Wessendorf & International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 2009).
The Aboriginal women and girls are among socially and economically disadvantaged groups in the Canadian society, with disadvantages rooted in the contemporary and historical day effects. The official Canadian statistics reveal the aboriginal women experience high levels of violence. Additionally, they experience the most severe and potentially life threatening forms of violence including being assaulted sexually (Hobbs & Rice, 2013). In the general survey that was released in 2004, there was indication that the majority of the aboriginal women were murdered or missing. The status of homicide of women victims is not reported or recorded in Canadian disappearance and homicide survey.
Since introduction of colonial policies, majority of the Aboriginal women have been exposed to attacks on their culture and way of life. This has led to undermining of their traditional roles as they are forced to face cases of disassociation of their traditional responsibilities, dispossession of their traditional territories as well as participation in political and social decisions, disrespect of roles within setting of their communities and tradition disorientation as well as culture. The historic concept that lies behind the genocidal policies is directly correlated to the disappearance and murder of Aboriginal women in Canada (Williams & Beverly, n.d).
Due to lack of a reliable and comprehensive documentation of violence cases against aboriginal women, because of direct and intimate knowledge of their murder and disappearance, the Native Women’s Association of Canada Stepped up in 2005 and initiated a project known as the Sisters in Spirit (Cariou & Sinclair, 2011). The project was involved with the collection of information regarding missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. It constructed reliable database and at the same time, published 2 vital reports that reflected the murders of aboriginal women. The report approximated 10% of the female homicide cases reported despite the aboriginal women comprising of only 3% of the population (Cariou & Sinclair, 2011) the tragedy of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada is attributed to the reasons below:
The government took control over the Aboriginals in Canada since 1850s and involves a series of regulations and some established laws to coerce and enforce women to adhere to the regiments and edicts demands (Williams & Beverly, n.d). This was done through the local agents and missionaries in present day Eastern Canada. A large percentage of Aboriginal lands were coveted and violated by colonial powers. From that point, colonialism aspect created lasting discrimination against the future aboriginal generations. The loss of connection as well as geographical dislocation of the community in the past affects the present and it is the women who are mostly affected. The state is devastating since Aboriginal women are subjected to conditions that are similar to those experienced during colonialism like being forced from home communities in order to fulfill marriage duties. Connections to family, culture and community were eroded in the past and to date, affect women due to ongoing cases of murder and disappearance (Williams & Beverly, n.d).
The Aboriginals in Canada as well face issues of discrimination based on race within the justice system. A large percentage of the Aboriginal people in Canada are looked upon as vulnerable because of their race (Williams & Beverley, n.d). Cases of violence and murder on the women are not given much thought compared to those involving white women. Racism continued to undermine values that the Canadian society is founded upon. Aboriginal women suffer issues of racism in the modern Canadian society, which has to a great extent contributed to increase in murder and violence cases. Justice plays minimal role in protection these women from such situations since the element of racism within the system runs extremely deep within forced that are charged with the mandate of protecting every Canadian citizen (Williams & Beverley, n.d).
The Aboriginal women murdered who are addicts, homeless individuals or sex workers have been looked upon in the Canadian society as worthless (Williams & Beverley, n.d.). However, not every Aboriginal woman is a sex worker, homeless or addict yet cases of stereotyping exist. The impact of dehumanization these groups face extend to all indigenous women in the country. The whole populace of Aboriginal women is vulnerable to such effects. The segregation of the Aboriginal women in Canada based on the factors aforementioned from societal role to date continues to affect women (Williams & Beverley, n.d). This is the result of past cases of discrimination which contributed to the case of poor socioeconomic scenarios to Aboriginal women. The demeaning image of women is as well connected to such cases that are stereotypical view of aboriginal women (Williams & Beverley, n.d).
The voice of Canadian women, especially aboriginal people who face cases of racism have not been looked upon in the mainstream, like leadership, the justice system, social functions and leadership (Williams & Beverley, n.d). This is attributed to the fact men in Canadian society are still viewed to have much power and influence. The characteristic of silence creates a platform for patriarchy to flourish. It has been noted even the aboriginal men contributed to suppressing of the aboriginal men, which exposed them to impacts of unjustified approaches. This reflects the fact the Canadian society is one that is driven by an agenda that aboriginal women are not given the same values as the other Canadian women. In the modern Canada however, such instances should not be tolerated in society; as such, patriarchy should not be allowed (Williams & Beverley, n.d)
The Aboriginal women in Canada are seen to be among the poorest and the most vulnerable to incidences of murder, violence and disappearing without a trace. This as well has seen injustice from police who ignore such investigations on the basis of classism since majority of the women who get exposed to cases of violence are unable to afford lawyers. There are also instances of biased police investigations in such cases that lead to injustice (Williams & Beverley, n.d). Over the years, the women have been presented vastly in the federal and provincial jails in Canada as a result of their inability to afford lawyers. Alleged Canadian police misconduct over cases of violence are hardly sanctioned nor do they undergo satisfactory inquiry.
At no given time will the Canadian government ever have a truthful inquiry into cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women (Williams & Beverley, n.d). This is due to the fact the institutions and systems in Canada still cause great abuses to women through provision of unjustified and unsatisfactory approaches while handling the cases aforementioned. Some significant reasons include:
Setting an inquiry in such cases, especially via the federal government involves cutting costs. In most cases, this undermines the mandate of setting up an inquiry that can handle the cases established effectively (Vancouver Police Department & the Women’s Memorial March Committee, 2011). This is proof of the manner in which the current government undermines efforts made by institutions to aid in solving disappearance, violence and murder cases against the aboriginal woman.
There would be implication cases for the Canadian nation state as the main root of the issue. Aboriginal women continued to go through simultaneous and continued case of under protection and criminalization of the agencies dealing with law enforcement (Vancouver Police Department & the Women’s Memorial March Committee, 2011). Colonialism, classism, sexism and racism are major aspects behind the majority of murdered, missing and abused women in modern Canada. As such, it implies setting up such inquiries and ensuring they keep running to provide justice means Canada would have to launch investigations on itself for the dreadful violations of the rights of aboriginal women (Vancouver Police Department and the Women’s Memorial March Committee, 2011).
There is so much that needs to be done in order to enable reduction in the rate of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada. There needs to be effort in the provision of uniform systems that make efficient collection, analysis, coordination and assuming action upon receiving information. These are just some of the areas that are within the power of police agencies and government jurisdiction necessitating improvement to limit rate at which aboriginal women go missing, are murdered and violated. It is of great importance that the police should serve the society in a just manner. There needs to be policies enacted that can make it possible for the communities to be part of the cycle in order to understand the life of the Aboriginal women who is discriminated against. The aboriginal women are supposed to rise and assume their position in the Canadian leadership niche.
Evidence of failure of the police to protect Aboriginal women from instances of violence can be seen in most reports of family members who suffer in the hands of police dismissively. The murders of these women are less likely to undergo any form of conviction. The Canadian government had publicly acknowledged there are a disproportionate high number of disappeared aboriginal women and murders. Advocate of women believes the cases of violence against aboriginal women are some form of discrimination in relation to gender, race, class and relative colonization impact. The large percentage believe the complex combination of racism, colonization and misogyny explains the reason why the majority of these women have gone missing or been murdered. This comes with limited attention to the ongoing tragedy.
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Anderson, A. B., Kubik, W., Hampton, M. R., & University of Regina. (2010). Torn from our midst: Voices of grief, healing and action from the Missing Indigenous Women Conference, 2008. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center.
Cariou, W., & Sinclair, N. J. (2011). Manitowapow: Aboriginal writings from the land of water. Winnipeg, Manitoba: High-water Press.
Hobbs, M., & Rice, C. (2013). Gender and women’s studies in Canada: Critical terrain.
Knopf, K. (2008). Aboriginal Canada revisited. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
Wessendorf, K., & International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. (2009). The indigenous world, 2009. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
Williams, A., & Beverley, J. (n.d.). Legacy of Residential Schools: Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. Speaking My Truth. N.p., Web. 09 Mar. 2014.
Vancouver Police Department, & The Women’s Memorial March Committee. (2011). The Tragedy of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal WoMen in Canada. N.p., Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
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