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First Nations Woman Asks of Steven Harper, How Long Must We Keep Doing This?


Native Women's Assoiciation of Canada honouring the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

Native Women’s Association of Canada honouring the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

Watching the eighth annual gathering in Ottawa, known as the Sisters in Spirit vigil I was deeply touched by first the question and then the statement of a young  First Nations woman. The young woman asked the question directed at the always absent Prime Minister of Canada, Steven Harper,  “How many more years do we have to keep coming and protesting on the hill to get action and justice for the over 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada? The young woman directed her statement also to the always absent Prime Minister of Canada Steven Harper when she stated, “We will keep right on coming back until we get justice for them!”  This the 8th such annual Sisters in Spirit vigil held here, was just 1 of 216 vigils held across the country and abroad.  I can see what these mothers, sisters and grandmothers want of Steven Harper who is a father with a daughter, so why can’t he?

Asking For Justice Again in 2012

Asking For Justice Again in 2012

I was on Capital Hill February 14 2012 for the last annual gathering of First Nation’s Women, Men and children who were standing in the cold praying, pleading and demanding and end to the practice of passing the buck and out right ignoring of the fact that over 600 aboriginal women have disappeared off the face` of the earth, or have been murdered across Canada and not one police force be it local, provincial or RCMP think that this is odd enough to use statistical analysis  to help get to the bottom of this and seem quite satisfied to leave these all as cold case files and unsolved mysteries.  Now this may seem all right to the police, the government and even some Canadians, but it is obvious that it is not okay with the mothers, fathers family and friends of these missing or murdered ladies, because they keep trying and showing up every year and say they will keep on doing it. Why is it that not one person in the government of Canada in the last 8 years at least seems to be able to muster the political will to do anything about it in terms of mounting an investigation directed at solving the mystery behind this tragedy?  We can all acknowledge that it is not Steven Harper’s fault alone that this travesty exists, but it is his fault that he allows this travesty of justice to continue when he could do something about it while he holds a strong, majority Conservative government.  I applaud the opposition parties for making their heart-felt tear jerking speeches, but I would say that in all cases when they had the chance to do something for these women and their families they all ignored the issues, or there would be no need for this protest today.  These deaths and disappearances have been happening since the 60’s there is not one provincial, territorial, civic, or federal party that does not bear the shame of talking but doing nothing for these people.  It is interesting to see the emotional leader of the NDP Tom Mulcair saying things like,

  • “The number of women in the Ottawa area is the same number of native women in Canada”. “If you heard that 600 women were murdered or missing in Ottawa do you think we’d have to have demonstrations to get an inquiry?”
  • That the rally was about reminding Canadians that missing aboriginal women is an injustice all Canadians need to address

but what does this mean in real terms for the families of the missing and murdered women?

bloodtribe_jpeg_size_xxlarge_letterboxWe can all gather at these type of events, pretend to be honorary members of a First Nation Tribe, pretend to give a damn for the day and then go on with business as usual until the next year until once again we don our tear streaked, shameful masks and pretend to care, but that is not what I think these mothers and family members want.  What I think they want is action, an investigation and answers, so that they can stop coming and protesting and finally find closure in this heart breaking struggle.  I think that they would like to lay their love ones to rest knowing  in their hearts and minds that after they have done all that they can for their missing and murdered loved ones and that they finally have succeeded to have the injustices of their children’s loss of life dealt with respectfully, with dignity and with a sense of rightness that they deserve and can no longer fight for  themselves.  In other words talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. Oh it is nice to have a prominent member of a party, especially the leader of a political party stand up and publicly say that they understand you and are with you, but that alone is just  political photo opt seeking, if the fight for them and for you dies the minute they leave the podium and I think that is what is happening, or why are these protest still needing to go on, with all of the seemingly political will that is out there?

Asking For justice again in 2012

Asking For justice again in 2012

As I said earlier in 2012 I was in Ottawa down for the ice sculpture exhibition and decided to take a few pictures of parliament hill and walked into what I think was the 7th Sisters in Spirit vigil.  I was of course aware of the fact  that aboriginal girls going missing off the reserves in Quebec, near Montreal, because of the posters and billboards, but I had no idea how many unsolved cases where aboriginal girls were missing  and murdered there were, for how long this had been going on, (since the 1960’s)  and that this problem was right across Canada.  I learned this in 5 minutes standing there looking at the posters, listening to the opening prayer.  I have never personally done anything to harm or injure an aboriginal person in word or deed, but that day standing there with those people I felt guilty and ashamed for not knowing enough and in my ignorance having done nothing to help bring their fight out into the open.  If you do not know then you can not help and not knowing enough about something like this is not an accident; it is not finding it important enough to follow-up on; it is believing whether consciously or subconsciously that the problem is not yours and so not really a priority; something best left to them to deal with.

The relatives of the missing and murdered aboriginal girls and women want to know how long must they do this vigil, before they get action?

The relatives of the missing and murdered aboriginal girls and women want to know how long must they do this vigil, before they get action?

I think what we are missing in all of this is that these people are tired of remembering the problem that has existed for too long and want answers and solutions to stop what is still happening when it comes to the many abuses that end up in death and the mysterious disappearing of aboriginal girls.  It is not enough for the RCMP to repeat year after year that they do not keep the type of statistics that would put an accurate count to how many of these unsolved, unresolved cases there really are in Canada. “The exact number remains a mystery. The RCMP says it does not collect data on the ethnicity of missing women.”  Why not this has been an issue since the 1960’s and it is not going to go away so why is it that the RCMP refuses to collect the appropriate data I wonder? Is it afraid that once that type of information is on paper that the public will notice some disturbing trends that if revealed in actual statistical proof could put them in a not so good light?

Asking For Justice   Again In 2012

Asking For Justice
Again In 2012

As I watched I understood for the first time how frustrating it must be; how demoralising it must be to get to a point where you know that your protest will get you absolutely nowhere in terms of a solution to your problem, no matter what is agreed upon; no matter what promises are made, because the only person that can make the call to make things right will never come to the table, because they see the spilled blood of your ancestors, the spilled blood of your children and the disappearance of your children, as not their problem.  To come year after year and be seen as only a reminder that someone should be doing something and knowing by past example that nothing will and not having the choice to do anything else, must cause one’s blood to boil.  I begin to understand the statement now that it is hard for first Nations people to get the rest of Canadians to see them as human beings.  I believe that if 600 other Canadians went either missing, or were being murdered since 1960, the RCMP would have had the statistics and their would have been a full-blown official investigative inquires into the matter.  There seems to be a conscious feeling of so what it isn’t my problem and it isn’t my fault when it comes to the many injustices and hardships that the people of the First Nations face everyday, because of the dishonorable, way we have not held up our obligations concerning treaty rights and land claims.

Ambassador Golberg nAn article in the Canadian Press reads, “Canada’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Elissa Golberg, said, “Canada is proud of its human-rights record, and our peaceful and diverse society,” Golberg told the one-hour session. While no society is entirely free of discrimination, she noted, Canada has “a strong legal and policy framework for the promotion and protection of human rights, and an independent court system.” Canada rejected a series of resolutions calling on Canada to undertake sweeping national reviews of violence against aboriginal women. Goldberg said Canada takes the issue seriously and that provincial and local governments are better suited to getting results on those issues.”  In Toronto, Teresa Piruzza, the Ontario minister responsible for women’s issues, expressed disappointment, saying it is “really a national issue.”  It is this type of denial and refusal to admit our mistakes that does not allow us as a nation to fix the problem and move forward.   Rejecting the truth when you hear it does not make you clean it only serves to prove your ignorance, in my opinion.

Where in all of the emblems around the Centennial Flame are those of the First Nations?

Where in all of the emblems around the Centennial Flame are those of the First Nations?

This picture to me demonstrates what is wrong with our way of thinking when it comes to how we think about the rights of our First Nations People.  It makes the claim that it represents all of the provinces and territories that were in confederation as of 1967, but nowhere on there are the First Nations People of Canada represented. They are not and cannot be considered to be, because they were never asked.   I believe we have always looked at the First Nations People as something that we inherited with the land during our colonization of it, like the air, water, soil and the animals found on it, flying above it and swimming in it.  I do not think that our founding fathers considered the people living here as human beings deserving or entitled to own the  land, but were just another species of mentally superior animal roaming the land along with the others. I am saying that we as a people did not then, and do not  now consider First Nations people  capable of taking care of their own affairs and have always and continue to talk to them and treat them as though they were some mentally handicap wards of ours that we feel obligated to take care of, speak for and make decisions for, despite their protestations and the proof that they can do all that for themselves. If we did consider these people as our equals with the same rights as we have than how do we justify not only our past behaviour, but the behaviour of our present towards them?   On what premise could we come to this land find them living here and just move in and take it for our own? If all of this was a mistake of our forefathers and we acknowledge this as we did and we claim to have changed, than how can we continue to treat First Nations as if they do not have rights; denying them what is in the treaties, denying them access to the courts to fight for themselves, denying them their lands and their right to exist as nations to nation with us, sharing one body of land as we agreed to do?  Why for instance do we look harder for our missing pets and show more care about how and why they died  than we do about the 600 missing and murdered  aboriginal girls?

box2_1100100014610_eng nSaying it isn’t so and thumbing our noses at the United Nations when they say that we are guilty of ill treating the aboriginal people of this country instead of doing something about it makes us little more than hypocrites every time we interfere in a sovereign country’s business using the justification that they are mistreating and violating their populations rights.  We are in fact no better than those we drop bombs on, throw blockades  around, and enforce embargos on  reducing their economies to shambles causing senseless suffering of the people we say we are there to help. When we look at the struggle of our First Nations people to get even the most basic needs that most Canadians take for granted, who are we as a nation and with what justification do we invade and occupy the lands of others? Are those leaders, those countries not justified in calling us hypocrites? I got to ask all Canadians what is up Canada?  This picture depicts another part of the problem.  It makes the claim that giving the First Nations their right to govern themselves as independent nations can only be done if they first promise to abide by all of the laws we have set in place and that they had no consultation and no participation in the making of.  It is kind of like saying that as a country we will grant them everything that they are entitled to by treaty and by land claims, but first they must promise in advance not to avail themselves of their rights, because the availing themselves of their rights will inconvenience us. It is as if we are saying as a nation that we will grant them their freedom, because we know that slavery is wrong, but before we as a nation will be willing to do that, they the people of the First Nations must agree in writing to continue to allow us to make all of their decisions for them and they must adhere to the relationship that we have develop over the years.  Is it not time that we stop stealing from these people who graciously offered to share their lands with us? Isn’t it time we stopped humiliating and subjugating these people who so graciously offered to share their lands with us? Isn’t time we started to see these people as our equals and give them what was agreed upon, but we never delivered on by treaty. Finally is it not time that we show by actions and not just in words that these are not a conquered people but a nation of people who entered into negotiations and signed treaties with another nation making our relationship nation to nation not conquered to victorious, by honoring our treaty obligations unconditionally?  If not I would ask how can you expect the people of the First Nations to sit down and negotiate a deal with a people who have proved themselves to be not honourable and unable to live up to the bargains they have already agreed to?  So in closing I as once again,”What is up Canada?

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  1. October 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm
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