ONWA speaker relays dismal statistics and heartbreaking stories of broken families

Even though the roadblocks and barricades have come down, the community members of Tyendinaga are still very much interested in what the federal government plans on doing about the hundreds of murdered and missing First Nations women. Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Ph.D., President of the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), spoke to a roomful of people at the Community Well Being Centre on June 19th regarding ONWA and the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) research findings.

Lavell-Harvard discussed the Sisters in Spirit research project conducted by NWAC that was published in 2010. The research, now well documented, revealed there are nearly 600 murdered and missing First Nations women across Canada, in addition to literally hundreds of stories revealing staggering facts affecting all Native women. There are stories about our women reporting crimes against them just to have police ignore them, or police abusing our women in custody. Acts that would never be tolerated against, dare I say it, white women.

Some of quantitative highlights are, “[Of] about 582 cases of missing and murdered [First Nations] women and girls; 67% are murder cases (death as the result of homicide or negligence); 20% are cases of missing women or girls; 4% are cases of suspicious death – deaths regarded as natural or accidental by police, but considered suspicious by family or community members; and 9% are cases where the nature of the case is unknown – it is unclear whether the woman was murdered, is missing or died in suspicious circumstances.” It should be noted the number 582 is from the time of the study but we have since learned that number is actually closer to 1,200.

Despite the dismal statistics regarding our women, Prime Minister Harper maintains this problem does not warrant an inquiry. Our women continue to be 5 times more likely to be in a violent situation without any regard from the authorities. It is with hope and compassion that Lavell-Harvard believes progress has been made, she stated when they began the research in the early 90’s the attitude from the police was ‘one less prostitute to arrest’ or ‘one less welfare mom draining taxpayers’ wallets.’

Historically, our people have repeatedly demonstrated the federal government’s inequities in the treatment of First Nations people. We have peacefully marched to Parliament Hill to protest land claims, education and health funding cuts. We create awareness about the violence against our women and children. Still Canada chooses to ignore our pleas. Stating there is nothing wrong, despite the fact that 40% of the murder cases involving Aboriginal women go unsolved. NWAC’s database identifies “that only 53% of murder cases involving Aboriginal women or girls have led to charges of homicide. This is dramatically different from the national clearance rate for homicides in Canada which was last reported [in Statistics Canada] at 84%”

It has been almost four months since many concerned community members demonstrated on Wyman’s Rd and Shannonville Rd to create awareness. The demonstration came after Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to call a national inquiry to the missing and murdered First Nations women. Nothing yet has been done, other than spending taxpayers’ money on commissions and committees to tell them the same thing our people have been telling them for decades.

Tyendinaga community members are remembering that much more work needs to be done in this area, because as a wise Mohawk man once said, “Without [] women there are no nation”. Wouldn’t that be convenient for the federal government?

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