Justice for Murdered and Missing First Nations Women

 

They gathered from First Nations communities along the Highway of Tears, the road leading from Prince George to Prince Rupert in central British Columbia. They beat drums as they marched and carried pictures of their missing and murdered loved ones, all Aboriginal women who had disappeared without a trace.

Her voice choking with emotion, one woman sobbed, “My little girl said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be home.’ And she blew me a kiss, and she said, ‘I love you.’ That was the last time I seen my little girl.”

The year was 2006, and the families were marching to Prince George to demand justice for their lost family members. In the five years since, though more women have disappeared, not one case has been solved. In September 2011, Wally Opal, head of the B.C. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, traveled the highway, meeting with communities whose daughters, sisters and aunts were among the victims. The terrible question hangs over their losses: Would the RCMP have acted swifter and more diligently had the women been white?

Karen Whonnock, of B.C’s Moricetown band, told the inquiry that RCMP officers stop vehicles to check on seat belts or look for illegally caught fish, but they never stop vehicles when an Aboriginal woman goes missing. A CBC news story quotes her: “It really states…illegal fish is a higher priority than a native life.”

A Search for Justice

The commission is also looking into reports of missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the handling of the murder investigation against Robert William Pickton. He was arrested in 1997 but released in 1998, allowing the serial murderer to continue his killing spree. By the time he was in custody again in 2002, he could brag to police he had killed 49 women. His favorite victims were drug addicts and prostitutes, many of them Aboriginal women. The question rears its head again: Would the police have ended the grisly spree sooner had the women been white and middle class?

Echoes of this story rebound across Canada. The Native Women’s Association of Canada report published in 2010 put the total number of victims at 582 over a period of three decades. Most of the women in their database were murdered, but 115 were still missing. They acknowledged the numbers were likely much lower than the actual total because Canada has no national missing persons database and does not always identify Aboriginal status on police records.

Walk for Justice, a B.C.-based volunteer group, estimates the number of missing and murdered women to be as high as 4,200. They have compiled a database that shows the majority of those women to be Aboriginal, in a country where First Nations people comprise less than four percent of the population.

These women are victims of horrible sexual violence. Their lives matter. Their deaths diminish us all. Their families deserve answers. Canada’s failure to undertake a national inquiry and to act to end systemic racism is shameful. Join us in calling for a national inquiry and an end to violence against Aboriginal women.

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Photo from marbla123 via Flickr Creative Commons

54 comments

June Lacy
June Lacy4 years ago

THIS IS SO SAD.......WE WOMEN EVERYWHERE CAN BECOME TARGETS...EVEN IN THE MOST INDUSTRIAL COUNTRIES.......BARBARISM IS ON THE RISE.

Robert Moseley
Robert Moseley4 years ago

This is indeed a tragic event. Women world wide are raped, enslaved and murdered. What about the 100,000,000 missing women and girls in Southern Asia? I get the impression that males world wide have been told that women are nothing more than animals worth no more than used furniture or an old pair of shoes. THIS HAS TO STOP!!

Nancy C.
Nancy C.4 years ago

Yes, trafficking and murder of women happen everywhere, but the differential between an unknown figure between 600 and 4200 is downright criminal in and of itself. Let's go Canada.

Carmen B.
Carmen B.4 years ago

Shame on the RCMP for not investigating these murders. Wanted to go to Canada, but probably won't now that I've read this.

Sophie G.
Sophie G.4 years ago

Humanity and its terrible fear of difference, its terrible desire of control and the ensuing guilt.

The neverending story.

Despite of the naming Native Canadian "Aborigens" let's sign the petition. But it would look better without, and much more respectful.
The tribes of these persons too could be told... My tribe's French and you wouldn't believe how proud of it I can be in E.U.
;-)
Mitakuye Oyasin!

Darlene B.
Darlene W.4 years ago

Regardless of a person's status in life, all need to be treated equally. This is disgusting - they should be ashamed for not helping anyone in these circumstances. Blessings to all the lost souls and their families.

peggy p.
peggy p.4 years ago

sorry state of affairs...i agree, if there is money in the family, or the news people get ahold of it, then there seems to be more action.

Michael Kirkby
Michael Kirkby4 years ago

I have wondered about the Picton case for some time. I have always felt that there was more than one serial killer loose at the time that Robert Picton was hunting. In fact I wonder if Picton acted alone at times.
Secondly there are all those murdered women around Edmonton that have been going on for years. I know that they caught someone but I doubt he was responsible for them all.
First Nations women are vulnerable but so is anyone who lives the high risk lifestyle that many of them do.
Lastly, when you are on First Nations land it is up to their constabulary to police it and to bring to justice the perpetrators of violence against women. Off First Nations Canadian jurisprudence or lack thereof prevails.

Michael Kirkby
Michael Kirkby4 years ago

I have wondered about the Picton case for some time. I have always felt that there was more than one serial killer loose at the time that Robert Picton was hunting. In fact I wonder if Picton acted alone at times.
Secondly there are all those murdered women around Edmonton that have been going on for years. I know that they caught someone but I doubt he was responsible for them all.
First Nations women are vulnerable but so is anyone who lives the high risk lifestyle that many of them do.
Lastly, when you are on First Nations land it is up to their constabulary to police it and to bring to justice the perpetrators of violence against women. Off First Nations Canadian jurisprudence or lack thereof prevails.

Erika L.
Erika Leal5 years ago

While I agree that women and first nations women in particular are marginalized and often can become overlooked, I do ask (back to the original question)are the RCMP purposely neglecting these missing persons cases or are they prohibited from investigating because it is taking place on First Nations lands?