Twenty-three years ago to the day, 14 young women were murdered in a senseless act of violence at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal. They were targeted precisely because they were women, and this day offers us all reason to reflect on the continuing tragedy violence against women wreaks in our society. It speaks to a need for greater community safety; it deals with protecting families at risk; and it’s recognizing that as a nation, we must do more – much more, to help overcome this human tragedy.
As we cherish the memories of all those who have been left scarred or lost their lives due to gender-based violence, I particularly think of the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. It is a story of human tragedy, of loss of life, of shattered dreams and broken families.
This is an issue that has been front and centre in our Aboriginal communities for over a decade. It is an issue that has caused so much pain and suffering in homes, in families and throughout Aboriginal communities. And it is an issue that truly must be recognized as one that is about more than just politics, programs or services.
The facts are absolutely staggering: nearly 600 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women. 153 cases of murder, representing approximately 10 percent of the total number of female homicides in Canada – despite the fact that Aboriginal women make up only 3 percent of the total female population in Canada. What’s more, 88 percent of missing and murdered Aboriginal women left behind children and grandchildren. As a mother, a sister, a daughter and a grandmother – and as a proud First Nations woman, I ache for the families of these victims.
If we are to prevent further losses while honouring the memories of those whom we mourn, we have to act now.
There have been discussions between the provinces and with National Aboriginal organizations on this critical issue – the latest of which took place in Manitoba early in November. This is another key step in helping to build momentum on moving forward with all stakeholders, but the federal government has thus far failed to join this process as a genuinely committed partner. Meanwhile, there continues to be calls by some for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. My colleague, Liberal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett has already introduced a motion, M-411, in the House of Commons calling for a public inquiry that would provide the justice and healing denied to families for so long.
We have the means to do more. We have the opportunity to do more. If one segment of our population continues to be victimized and have their very lives put at risk, then all of Canada is at risk.
The number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women represents a true crisis in Canadian society. On this Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, let us commit to work together, constructively, to rid Canada of the terrible legacy of missing and murdered Aboriginal women once and for all.
Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas
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