Ottawa, ON (July 4, 2012) The Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) is troubled and offended with recent media releases and editorials, such as that put out by the Winnipeg Sun on June 29th, 2012, that perpetuates ongoing racism against the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, and in particular, against the most vulnerable group of Canadian society, Aboriginal women. Such blatant and offending articles should raise the concern and ire of many Canadians who are committed to improving relationships between themselves and Canada’s First Peoples.
“Ignorance is no excuse for the complete lack of awareness of Canadian history or of the rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada that are safeguarded and entrenched in Canada’s Constitution.” said NWAC President Jeannette Corbiere Lavell in response to this offending editorial piece. “Regardless of free speech, racism of this magnitude should not be tolerated nor allowed to be published in any media format. It is obvious that more education and awareness on the issue of violence against Aboriginal women is very much needed.”
Sadly, Canadian history with respect to the treatment of Aboriginal peoples is not something in which most people can take pride of in this country. Attitudes of racial and cultural superiority have led to a suppression of Aboriginal culture and values. As a country, past and present actions have resulted in weakening the identity of Aboriginal peoples, suppressing their languages and cultures, and outlawing spiritual practices.
It is worth noting that the last residential school closed in 1996, and discrimination has continued, which can be evidenced by the fact that Aboriginal education continues to be funded at lower levels than for non-Aboriginal children. The living standard of Aboriginal peoples in Canada continues to fall short of those of non-Aboriginals, and we continue to encounter barriers in gaining equality. Aboriginal life expectancy is lower; we have fewer high school graduates, higher unemployment, almost twice as many infant deaths and we spend more time in jail and it isn’t always because more Aboriginal peoples are committing more crimes. How Aboriginal peoples are treated when they come into contact with the police has been, and continues to be, a problem. Whether the interaction is as a witness giving a statement, as a victim, or as an accused, Aboriginal peoples are treated differently by those involved at every level of the justice system. We have lower incomes, enjoy fewer promotions in the workplace and remain, as a group, the poorest in Canada.
In Canada, the reasons for Aboriginal peoples’ over-representation in these negative contexts are many and complex but certainly include a history clearly related to race and racism. Blaming the victim for her own death has become common practice among both media and individuals. If, as stated in this article, Aboriginal women were murdered primarily because of their risky lifestyle, why then is there such a disproportionate number of Aboriginal women murdered compared to other women who live under the same circumstances?
The NWAC’s call for a National Inquiry into the disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women and girls would be designed to examine and address the situation at every level. “This requires the input and voice of all Canadians,” said President Corbiere Lavell, “we must all come to the table; this involves each and every one of us being willing to work towards a safer and healthier Canada.”
The Aboriginal peoples of this land have welcomed newcomers for hundreds of years and Canada is now home for people from many nations who have come here to seek and get a better life,” stated President Corbiere Lavell. She also stated that, “all Canadians should know that Aboriginal families are also seeking a better life. It is a belief held by us as Aboriginal peoples that all life is valued and should be honored and respected regardless of the life situations imposed upon us, many of which is policy born and out of our personal control. The media has a responsibility to report fairly, with facts based on the realities in which all Canadians exist, including Aboriginal women and girls.”
For more information contact:
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Tel: (613) 722-0333