MISSING & MURDERED
Updated: May 2, 2019
This beautiful baby girl was a representation of love, of hope, and of the future. She was bright-eyed and beautiful, the perfect combination of her mother and father. She grew so fast, as they always do. This beautiful girl was smart, quick-witted, and you could usually find her with a smile on her face. Her future was so bright. She was so loved. She received good grades in school, and was working hard towards achieving her goals.
One day her parents became worried as she didn’t return home. They contacted the police, but they said that not enough time had passed and to call back later. The mother felt sick to her stomach. Her instincts were telling her that something wasn’t right. Her stomach was twisting in knots, making her feel instantly nauseous. She called her daughter’s phone frantically and repeatedly. She texted her daughter's friends. She called every number she could, but no one knew where she was. Days passed. On her knees in despair, her mother clung to hope, screaming on the inside out of fury, frustration, and fear, yet calm and distant on the outside, trying to remain strong.
Their younger children started asking, “where is my sister?” Never quite knowing how to answer, their Father assured them that the police are looking, and that they would continue to look for her, but deep inside, he knew that as more time passed, the chances of finding her safely declined.
It was a real life nightmare of complete helplessness. With a dark cloud over her head, she was down on her knees, screaming for help. Out of breath from screaming and crying, she longed for the life her parents had created for her. Her spirit at unrest because her murder will never be solved. Her body never laid to rest and she was never given a chance to be at peace. A cold, empty space left inside all of those who loved her.
What happened to her? Why her?!
This is a question that many have to ask. This is the reality for many Indigenous families.
Did you know it is likely that this could be your daughter? Do you know that if you are Onkwehonwe (Indigenous), that the chances of this being your daughter are higher? This is the stark reality for many families across Canada. According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, there are, “582 cases of missing and/or murdered Indigenous women and girls.” This is a Human Rights issue that has, sadly, not been a priority over the years.
“According to Statistics Canada’s 2014 General Social Survey (GSS), Aboriginal women experience much higher rates of violence than non-Aboriginal women. Statistics Canada reports that Aboriginal women are significantly overrepresented as victims of homicide."
“Community-based research has found levels of violence against Aboriginal women to be even higher than those reported by government surveys.”
Aside from these somewhat outdated statistics, what action is being taken? What is really being done?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks about reconciliation, but as an insider to the life of an Onkwehonwe person, I can tell you that this remains to be seen. On the world wide stage we have all witnessed Trudeau’s blatant dishonesty, disrespect, and lack of integrity in his actions towards Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is an Aboriginal woman, but also the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Facts clearly point out who should be accountable in this situation, however, with Trudeau being in power over our entire country, he demonstrates the lack of respect for women as a whole, when his agenda cannot be furthered by pressure and intimidation. Jody Wilson-Raybould demonstrates a strong Indigenous woman, much like many of us who fight to maintain our identity, and that will do what is right with integrity even though it is clearly the more difficult road to take. If the Prime Minister of Canada does not have to be accountable and will publicly act in such a way toward not just a woman, but an Indigenous woman, this does not leave us with much encouragement. It does not allow us to feel that the issue of our missing women and daughters will be taken seriously and that actions will actually be put towards a plan to protect our women and our daughters.
Our Nation, specifically the Mohawk Nation, is a matrilineal society. We hold our women up high. They are the givers of life, our teachers, our nurturers, and they ensure that our clans are passed down to our children, and carried on to the future generations. There are no easy words to describe the significance of women in a way that will truly give them justice. The attack on our women and daughters has continued and it is an attack on our people as a whole.
What I would love for all to take away from this article is awareness. An awareness that is all too real of a threat to the women in my life, to my daughters and nieces. It is a raw reality and I worry about the safety of my daughters, especially. I worry knowing that they are more likely to be a target of violence than their non-native friends. I worry about how to keep them safe, and how I can possibly do so in the future when they venture out into a world where they are undervalued, and where so many women and girls lives remain unaccounted for.
I would also like to raise awareness of the families that grieve a loss so huge, that may never get closure or the ability to lay their daughters to rest, let alone the ability to seek justice. What is justice in this world if you are Indigenous?
On May 5th, I ask that you wear red to remember, to honour, and to promote an awareness for the daughters that did not return home.