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Hundreds of missing and murdered women demand national inquiry

The Canadian public’s response to railway blockades at the end of March, aimed at drawing attention to missing and murdered First Nations women, has been inadequate and ignorant.

I found out about the blockade when I overheard a woman complaining to her friend, saying she couldn’t go see her boyfriend because “Natives were blocking the tracks.” How inconvenient.

Amnesty International states that there are currently more than 580 cases of missing and murdered First Nations women in Canada, and these women are five to seven times more likely to die as a result of violence than other Canadian women. Given these statistics, I would assume that the government would be involved in helping these women and their families, but few cases have been investigated.

So, why are First Nations put on the back burner?

As a country that prides itself on being a mosaic of diversity and multiculturalism, one would think that we would all be genuinely concerned for these women. But it’s clear that we as Canadians are not doing enough to provide safety for First Nations communities.

It seems most Canadians simply don’t want the problems associated with the First Nations to disappear. During the Idle No More protests in the winter of 2013, the Globe and Mail reported that a new poll suggests “attitudes are hardening on aboriginal issues.”

Stereotypes of aboriginal women blind the public and the government into assumptions that these women are not victims of terrible crimes. We are choosing not to see the racial discrimination, the sexual exploitation, the coping mechanisms, and the beautiful culture.

Just last year, the Morris Mirror, a local newspaper in Manitoba, published an editorial that wrote, “Indians/Natives want it all but corruption and laziness prevent some of them from working for it.” The fact that aboriginal communities are being ignored because of stereotypes such as these is unjustifiable.

The United Nations’ Committee against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination , and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, have all recommended a national inquiry by the federal government to examine the causes of the issue. This was endorsed by all Canadian premiers, as well as the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Yet, the government has repeatedly ignored all such recommendations. A report entitled “Invisible Women: A Call To Action” from the MPs on the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women was released in March and recommended a public awareness and prevention campaign, but made no mention of a national inquiry.

These families deserve to feel embraced by this nation and their voices should be heard and considered above all else. Ignoring this epidemic does nothing but diminish the faith that First Nations and fellow Canadian citizens have in our government.

If we are ever going to fix this issue, both the citizens and the government of Canada must prioritize its investigation, not ignore it.