Tag Archives: Aboriginal Women and Girls

Harper Resisting Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Aboriginal Women

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop at Global Systems Emissions Inc., in Whitby, Ont., on Oct. 6, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop at Global Systems Emissions Inc., in Whitby, Ont., on Oct. 6, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

The Canadian Press

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper isn’t budging on his refusal to hold a federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, framing the issue Tuesday as a law-and-order problem and noting police have solved most of the crimes.

Advocates for an inquiry swiftly criticized Harper for taking an overly narrow view of violence against aboriginal women and girls that ignores complex underlying causes.

“We don’t expect anything different from Harper,” said Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. “We’re hoping for a government that will work with us in addressing this.”

It’s time to move past “simplistic explanations,” such as attributing the phenomenon to domestic violence, said Craig Benjamin, campaigner for the human rights of indigenous peoples at Amnesty International Canada.

“We have to get to the point of understanding the violence is far more pervasive, that it has multiple causes and that it does in fact have deep roots in our society and the relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.”

During a campaign stop in Whitby, Ont., Harper said it is “way past the time” for studying the subject because there have been some 40 examinations already.

Instead, a re-elected Conservative government would press ahead with efforts to prevent violence against aboriginal women and ensure appropriate penalties are in place for abusers.

“Our government position on this has been very clear. We have moved forward with a whole series of criminal justice reforms to deal with the problems of violence against people generally, violence against women in particular,” Harper said.

“Most of these murders, sad as they are, are in fact solved.”

In Saskatoon on Tuesday evening, about 100 protesters, including a number of aboriginal women, chanted and drummed behind a fence when Harper arrived at a pre-fab building products company.

Inside roughly the same number of partisan supporters greeted Harper enthusiastically as he continued to tout the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

A landmark report issued last year by the RCMP said close to 90 per cent of all female homicides are solved, and there is little difference in solve rates between aboriginal and non-aboriginal victims.

Overall, the RCMP review — drawing on data stretching back to 1980 — identified 1,181 police-recorded incidents of aboriginal female homicides and unresolved missing aboriginal females — 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims.

Even so, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Tuesday that Harper was “shamefully ignorant of the facts.”

There is an obligation to get to the bottom of the problem, he said, reiterating the New Democrat promise to initiate an inquiry within 100 days of forming a government.

Benjamin said the dozens of studies into violence against aboriginal women include a “vast body of unimplemented recommendations.”

“It would be one thing if the government were to say, there’s 40 studies and we’re going to sit down and make sure those recommendations are implemented.”

A federal commission of inquiry could yield “a consistent, coherent plan of action based on a genuine knowledge of what’s happening,” Benjamin added.

In September 2014, the Conservative government outlined initiatives to address violence against aboriginal women and girls including funding for shelters and family violence prevention activities, and support for police investigations and creation of a missing persons index.

The federal measures are inadequate and leave too many gaps, Benjamin said. For instance, the vast majority of First Nations communities lack women’s shelters.

Asked at an Oct. 1 all-candidates debate about the prospect of a federal inquiry, Montreal Conservative nominee Richard Sagala acknowledged “dark chapters” in the relationship with First Nations.

A recording of the event shows he went on to characterize the creation of Nunavut as a less than satisfying experience, with violence there comparable to South Africa.

The Liberals criticized Sagala, who posted a clarification Tuesday on his Facebook page.

Maloney, meanwhile, is focusing her efforts on encouraging aboriginals to cast election ballots. “I’m hoping to have more impact on voters than on Harper.”

By Jim Bronskill and Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press, Oct 6/15  


Native Leaders Call For Action, Not More Talk

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

By Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Dawn Lavell Harvard says the time for well-intentioned but often empty talk is over.

The president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, along with other national aboriginal leaders, will step up pressure for action when they meet Wednesday with provincial and territorial premiers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L.

They’re calling for detailed work plans to go with the photo ops and communiques from their yearly sit-down with the Council of the Federation.

“The most pressing concern we have right now in our communities is the ongoing level of violence,” Lavell Harvard said from Ottawa.

She believes provinces should step in as the federal Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuse to call a public inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt was among federal officials who attended a national roundtable on the issue last winter. They highlighted justice investments and a five-year, $25-million plan to reduce related violence as proof of action, saying an inquiry isn’t necessary.

“We want to see concrete action,” Lavell Harvard said. “Policing, access to justice, equity and discrimination issues.

“We need to push the provinces to do more.”

The 2011 National Household Survey suggests indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the national female population. But the RCMP has said they’re victims in 16 per cent of female homicides and account for 11 per cent of missing women.

The Mounties have reported that almost 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or have vanished since 1980, and that attackers are often known to the victims.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the issue will be front and centre Wednesday.

He also said the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released last month must not gather dust.

“The TRC recommendations and calls to action captured the whole country and the world,” he said in an interview. “We just need to give them life.”

The commission described as “cultural genocide” the suffering borne by generations of aboriginal children in once-mandatory residential schools.

It estimated more than 6,000 boys and girls, about one in 25, died in the institutions. Scores of others endured horrific physical and sexual abuse.

The commission made 94 recommendations toward reconciliation, urging Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework.

Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, representing about 55,000 Canadian Inuit, said disproportionate numbers of aboriginal children in provincial care will also be discussed.

“If we could only get the federal government to the table, that would definitely go a long way.”

Harper’s long-standing absence from first ministers’ meetings sends a strong message, Bellegarde said.

“If we’re going to rebuild this country, we need all levels of leadership to be there.”

Provinces need to start hinging resource development on company commitments to consult, employ and share benefits with aboriginal people, Bellegarde said.

Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council, notes the meeting will take place near the $8.6-billion Muskrat Falls hydro development.

His group, representing about 6,000 Inuit-Metis in southern Labrador, says it wasn’t properly consulted and is challenging the project in court.

The Nunatsiavut government has also raised alarms about how potential mercury contamination from flooding could affect Lake Melville, a food source for 2,000 Inuit.

Host Premier Paul Davis said the province reached a major benefits agreement on Muskrat Falls with the Innu Nation.

“I think there is great value in ensuring it happens on a more consistent basis not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but across the country,” he said in an interview.

Davis said the premiers’ working group on aboriginal affairs has been crafting action plans for several matters, including violence against women. Truth and Reconciliation Commission members Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild will speak to the meeting in Labrador about how provinces can respond, he added.

The premiers move to St. John’s for sessions Thursday and Friday, including energy and economic issues, health care, trade and climate change.

The Canadian Press

Follow @suebailey on Twitter.


RCMP To Update Report On Missing And Murdered Aboriginal Women

TANYA TALAGA / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy of the Assembly of First Nations said the RCMP report on missing and murdered aboriginal women "should be made available and backed up by scientific research. We are talking about people's lives."

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy of the Assembly of First Nations said the RCMP report on missing and murdered aboriginal women “should be made available and backed up by scientific research. We are talking about people’s lives.”  TANYA TALAGA / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

Toronto Star

A year after the release of a report on 1,181 aboriginal women and girls that have been murdered or gone missing in the last three decades, the RCMP will provide an update on progress made.

First Nations leaders are calling for all the information gathered for the report to be released to the public — a step authorities have so far not agreed to.

The RCMP is not conducting new research for a second report, but they will provide an update in May on the areas listed in their original report, the National Operational Overview on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, which stunned the nation after police put a figure to what many already knew — First Nations women fall victim to violence far more than non-aboriginals do.

The RCMP update will include progress made on unresolved cases, focusing on prevention, increasing public awareness and making sure the data is accurate and captures women of aboriginal background, according to RCMP Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer.

Many First Nations leaders and aboriginal advocates feel the number of 1,181 murdered and missing is too low and that there are more uncounted cases out there. Of those listed in the RCMP report, 1,017 were murdered and 164 are missing women and girls from 1980 to 2012.

After the report’s initial release, cries for a national inquiry into how to stop the killings have grown louder. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper steadfastly refuses to hold an inquiry. Instead, the provinces have decided to hold a roundtable looking at systemic issues surrounding the issue.

Last month, when Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt commented to First Nations chiefs that 70 per cent of the cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women were perpetrated by indigenous men, community leaders demanded to know what new information the minister has.

It is time for the RCMP to release all the data they have collected so far on the cases so everyone can analyze the wide variety of factors that have led to the systemic problems of murdered and missing women, said Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy.

“Any report will have pros and cons. Depending on what views you are trying to project, you’ll use what works for you. The report should be made available and backed up by scientific research. We are talking about people’s lives,” Beardy said.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Valcourt refused to comment on what was discussed in the meeting with the chiefs on March 20, but he called the session productive.

Valcourt’s office would not answer specific calls from the Star.

But opposition members accused Valcourt in the House of Commons on Wednesday of being discourteous during the meeting and demanded he account for his actions, saying one chief even complained that Valcourt’s “responses and attitude strongly reflects the very same attitude that resulted in Indian residential schools.”

The original RCMP report concluded that 90 per cent of the homicide cases identified had been solved and that this percentage was similar to solved murders of non-First Nations women. Most homicides were committed by men and the report noted most women knew their attackers.

In cities across Canada on Thursday, First Nations people and advocates will march to remember Cindy Gladue, who bled to death from a 11-centimetre wound in her vagina. Gladue was a sex worker.

Bradley Barton, the long-haul trucker accused of killing her, was freed after the mostly white male jury found him not guilty. His defence argued the wound happened during rough sex.

During the criminal trial, Gladue’s body suffered further injustice after her wounded vagina was brought into court as evidence, said Audrey Huntley of Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto. She is one of the organizers of the march to remember Gladue.

“That really shows the level of racism we are dealing with. I think that is one big reason why her case has touched such a nerve,” Huntley said.

“There has been absolutely no justice for her in the courts or from the jury. Because she was a former or current sex worker, does that mean she was allowed to be violated or killed?” she asked.

With files from Joanna Smith

By: Staff Reporter, Published on Wed Apr 01 2015


Cindy Gladue Case: Not Guilty Verdict Ignites Outrage, Protests (GRAPHIC)

Protests are being organized this week, calling for justice in Cindy Gladue's death. | Facebook

Protests are being organized this week, calling for justice in Cindy Gladue’s death. | Facebook

By Andree Lau | The Huffington Post

WARNING: This story contains graphic details. The following information about violence may be triggering to survivors.

The circumstances of Cindy Gladue’s last hours were horrific. The mother of two bled to death in a motel bathtub, suffering from an 11-centimetre vaginal wound.

And the trial of the man accused of killing her was no less appalling, say aboriginal activists.

Earlier this month, an Edmonton jury found Ontario trucker Bradley Barton not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 death of Gladue, a First Nations woman.

Outrage over the verdict has spurred a letter-writing campaign, asking the Crown to initiate an appeal. An online petition is also collecting support for another trial. Protests across Canada are planned this week.

Barton, 46, testified at his month-long trial that Gladue’s injury was accidentally caused by rough sex when he thrust his fingers into her, reported the Edmonton Journal.

The Crown argued that Gladue — whose blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit — could not have have agreed to sex, and that Barton intentionally stabbed the sex trade worker, reported The Globe and Mail.

Alberta’s chief medical examiner brought Gladue’s preserved vagina into court as evidence, arguing that the jury needed to understand the nature of the wound. It was the first time part of a body has been presented as evidence at a Canadian trial, reported CBC News.

“Whatever you decide, this is not an accident,” Crown prosecutor Carrie-Ann Downey told the jury.

cindy gladue signs

Protest signs call for justice for Cindy Gladue.

The jury of nine men and two women acquitted Barton of both first-degree murder and manslaughter on March 18.

“This is another example of the way aboriginal women in Canada are marginalized, erased, and denied justice,” said Edmonton activist Fawn Lamouche in a news release.

After the decision, the Journal reported that Barton’s laptop showed he visited pornography websites featuring “extreme penetration and torture.” The evidence was not introduced at the trial after the judge ruled it wasn’t obtained lawfully by investigators.

Protests for justice

Rallies are being organized in at least 14 Canadian cities on Thursday to protest the verdict. The events have the support of Amnesty International, Idle no More, and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, said Lamouche.

Organizers point out that a 2014 RCMP report found 1,017 aboriginal women and girls were killed between 1980 and 2012, a homicide rate about 4.5 times higher than that of all other women in Canada.

The Edmonton acquittal just shows how violence against indigenous women is normalized, wrote scholar Sarah Hunt and activist Naomi Sayers in a column for The Globe and Mail. They also argued that bringing Gladue’s pelvis into the courtroom was another dehumanization of aboriginal people.

One of Gladue’s daughters wrote on Facebook this week: “I cannot believe it’s been almost 4 years, I miss you so much and I wish you could be here to meet my beautiful baby.”

Gladue’s family are owed justice, say supporters.

Where is the collective outrage?,” wrote Julie Kaye, an assistant professor of sociology at the King’s University in Edmonton. “The Gladue family deserves an appeal. Indigenous women and women in sex industries deserve an appeal. Sex workers do not consent to blunt trauma and 11-centimetre tears and death. Cindy Gladue did not consent to violence.”

Justice for Cindy Gladue March Thursday, April 2, 2015 #Edmonton #yeg #MMIW #MMAW

Justice for Cindy Gladue March Thursday, April 2, 2015 #Edmonton #yeg #MMIW #MMAW


Valcourt’s approach to missing Aboriginal women is dishonourable

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt in his Parliament Hill office. Pat McGrath / Ottawa Citizen

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt in his Parliament Hill office. Pat McGrath / Ottawa Citizen

December 19, 2014 | BETTY ANN LAVALLÉE

In a recent interview in the Citizen, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt urged action by First Nations and provincial governments to address the problem of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Everyone can support that. We all need to participate in finding and implementing solutions.

But the minister does not want to participate in finding solutions to this national tragedy. He disagrees with national Aboriginal organizations and the 75 per cent of the Canadian public who want an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

And then he made matters worse.

First, the minister claimed to know all that needs to be known about the issue, refusing calls for “an inquiry that will bring about what? Exactly what we know today.” Then he said that the root cause for violence against missing and murdered women is a “lack of respect for women” among Aboriginal men on reserve, where they “grow up believing women have no rights.”

It is a perspective that serves several purposes for the minister. It also promotes the kind of thinking that only exacerbates the problem.

By suggesting that he already knows the root causes of the violence faced by Aboriginal women in Canada, he can deny the need for further inquiry. By suggesting the violence is entirely attributable to Aboriginal men on reserves, he can pretend that the non-Aboriginal community in Canada is completely innocent.

It is an analysis built from one fact cited in a report on the issue by the RCMP: that more than 80 per cent of the murdered Aboriginal women knew their attacker or were related to him. From this, he concludes that the entire problem – the one about which he needs to ask no further questions – must be spousal violence on reserve.

But that same report says the same proportion of non-Aboriginal women knew or were related to the perpetrators of violence against them. I doubt the minister would say this is because non-Aboriginal men grow up believing that women have no rights.

Plus, more than 60 per cent of the missing persons cases and 70 per cent of the murders of Aboriginal women take place in urban centres. Winnipeg, Toronto and Edmonton are not on reserve. The Highway of Tears is not on reserve. Robert Pickton’s farm is not on reserve.

And why would he think Aboriginal women only know or are related to Aboriginal men? Is it because he doesn’t want to find out that non-Aboriginal men may have an equal or greater role in what is happening? Is it a desire to avoid looking at systemic issues like colonialism and racism, how they affect the lives our women lead and how they influence the actions of police and the justice system?

I am an Aboriginal woman in a political role. I have faced my share of sexism, from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men alike. It is a problem in both societies and certainly one of the issues at play in this tragedy. But sexism is not the entire problem.

To deny the reality of their lives and deaths is to dishonour the memory of these women and girls. The minister owes an apology to their families. To put all the blame on Aboriginal men on reserve is dishonest. The minister owes an apology to them as well. To mislead the public about this national tragedy in a manner that perpetuates colonialism is a disservice to every Canadian. The minister owes an apology to us all.

Betty Ann Lavallée is the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.