Tag Archives: Canada

Missing and Murdered Native Women

Everyone loves Canada, eh?  And no one can give you any specific details about Canada other than: two Olympics were held there, in Quebec they speak French, and, that it’s known for ice wine, ice hockey, and syrup.  *Update: Michael Moore isn’t from Canada.  He’s from Flint.*

But what about their issues?  Assuredly Canada deals with similar problems of race, class, gender, etc, but you never hear about Canada, so it must be fantastic there.  Right?

I recently learned from this Rabble news article posted on Racialicious that Canada has a high rate of missing and murdered native women, totaling nearly 600 women over the past 25 years, and half since the year 2000.  And more than half of these murders remain unsolved.  WTF?

In March, the Canadian Minister of Justice budgeted $10 million over two years to address the issue, yet they haven’t decided on how the money will be spent.  Many justice organizations, including Amnesty International and Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), suggest that the $10 million is not enough to support Canadian native women and solve “the problem.”  Mainly because the problem’s too damn big.

Photographs of missing or murdered women from British Columbia are displayed during a Sisters in Spirit vigil to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday October 4, 2009. Vigils were held in dozens of communities across Canada to highlight the issue of murdered Aboriginal women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

So what’s the problem?

Andre Picard from The Global and Mail states that these kidnappings and deaths are a result of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and race-based violence:

The women, most under the age of 30, are overwhelmingly victims of sexual violence. They are being preyed upon systematically by sexual sadists, killers and probably more than one serial killer.  How can this not be considered a national priority for police, justice and public-health officials?

Sadly, when a native woman is murdered or vanishes under suspicious circumstances, it does not mobilize police action nor generate near as much media attention as similar cases involving non-native women: They were drunk. They were sex workers. They came from unstable family backgrounds. They were runaways. They were party girls. An endless litany of excuses for inaction is trotted out with shocking regularity.

But it is precisely these circumstances – alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse, the sequelae of residential schools, poverty, survival sex, etc. – that placed them at much higher risk.

NWAC Sisters’ in Spirit director Kate Rexe said if the money is spent wisely with commitment from all levels of government and NGOs, there is an opportunity to change the system and how it responds to violence and the disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls.

NWAC recommends a comprehensive action plan based on four key areas of priorities: Increasing access to justice, reducing violence against Aboriginal women and girls, increasing economic security, and reducing the impact of children in care (welfare),” Rexe said.

"There is evidence that a serial killer may also be at work in Manitoba, and a single man may also be responsible for the carnage along British Columbia's infamous Highway of Tears . (Highway 16 - The Yellowhead Highway, which stretches 750 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert has been the site of nine murders and disappearances since 1990, all but one of the victims young aboriginal women.) But the reality is that the Highway of Tears stretches from sea-to-sea-to-sea in this country: Aboriginal women have been murdered or disappeared by the score in every single province and territory in Canada," says Picard. Photo by Vancouver Sun Files

Not to pick on Canada – the United States has a serious problem with these same issues.  Here are some stats about the situation in America:

According to Amnesty International, one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime – Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than a non-native woman.

In 2007, Amnesty International published its findings in the study “Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.”

That same year, NPR did a two-part series on the subject: “Rape Cases On Indian Lands Go Uninvestigated” and “Legal Hurdles Stall Rape Cases on Native Lands.”

The NPR series chronicled horrific stories either ignored by law enforcement or unreported because they have become commonplace.  The investigation also revealed a system underfunded and often broken: a tribal health center inadequately staffed and without rape kits to collect DNA from victims; tribal leaders and Native police unable to prosecute non-native perpetrators; and a patchwork of confusing jurisdictions in which federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement intersect and clash with each other.

Underlying the issue is a terrible fact that makes justice all but impossible: 80% of rapes involve non-native perpetrators, and tribal authorities are powerless in these situations because only federal prosecutors can prosecute crimes on tribal lands.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) oversees law enforcement on the reservations, and many police departments are woefully understaffed; one reservation the size of Connecticut has only 5 officers to cover the entire area. One BIA officer told NPR he was “too overwhelmed and overworked to keep up with the number of calls for rape, sexual assault and child abuse” that came in each week.

The Current TV documentary series Vanguard investigated this issue in their segment, “Rape on the Reservation.”  Correspondent Mariana van Zeller visits the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, where 19-year-old Marquita was raped, beaten, and murdered in an abandoned house.  Zeller looks into Marquita’s murder along with other harrowing stories of rape and abuse, and exposes the difficulties women face in their attempts to seek justice.

So what can you do?

Learn. Act. Share.  But most importantly, we need to work to end racism and sexism in our everyday lives.

How to act:

http://www.nwac.ca/act-now

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18634748040

http://www.now.org/nnt/spring-2001/nativeamerican.html

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U.K. Denies Iroquois Lacrosse Team OK to Travel

Monday, July 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) An Iroquois Indian lacrosse team cannot fly to England for what's considered the Olympics of the sport invented by their American ancestors because the U.S. government won't allow them to re-enter the country. The 23 players have passports issued by the Iroquois nation, based on a treaty signed by George Washington. The British are withholding visas for the players, who plan to re-apply for them Monday at the British Consulate in New York

By SAMANTHA GROSS (AP)

NEW YORK — The British government is refusing to allow an American Indian lacrosse team to travel to England using passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy.

The decision Wednesday means the team will miss a world championship lacrosse competition in Manchester.

A British Consulate spokeswoman says the team would be able to travel only with documents the United Kingdom considers valid.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a member of the Onondaga Nation who works with the team, says it was told by British officials that members would have to use American or Canadian passports in order to travel to Britain.

The decision was announced hours after the U.S. cleared the team for travel on a one-time waiver at the behest of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Percy Abrams, Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team board of directors executive director, shows his Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, passport during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, July 14, 2010. The U.S. government on Wednesday agreed to let the Native American lacrosse team travel to England for a tournament under Iroquois Confederacy passports, but their travel plans were still on hold because they lacked visas from Britain and because some players needed clearance from Canada. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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(NPR site link for this source)

Gonnella Frichner said the State Department dropped a demand that the team travel using higher-security U.S. passports. The players regard U.S. government-issued documents as an attack on their identity.

The British government had said previously it wouldn’t give the players visas if they could not guarantee they’d be allowed to go home.

U.S. officials previously informed the team that new security rules for international travelers meant that their old passports — low-tech, partly handwritten documents issued by the Iroquois Confederacy of six Indian nations — wouldn’t be honored.

The team needs to get on a Wednesday flight to make a Thursday evening game.

On Tuesday, the 23 members of the New York-based squad arrived at a Delta terminal at Kennedy International Airport wearing team jackets and shirts. Their manager, Ansley Jemison, didn’t expect to be allowed to board their flight to Amsterdam and wasn’t surprised to be turned away at the check-in desk.

But by showing up, the team avoided forfeiting its tickets. Airline officials said they would allow the squad to rebook its flight for Wednesday without penalty if it secured the proper documents, according to Jemison.

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