On 25 August Robyn Lawson posted on Twitter that three women in her family had disappeared in Canada in the last three years. Robyn is Indigenous, one of about 1.6 million Indigenous people in Canada (5% of the population).
In June, the report of a national inquiry found:
“First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women and girls and (LGBTQI) people in Canada … have been the targets of violence for far too long. This truth is undeniable … (and) amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, which especially targets women.”
I have read much over the years about the experiences of Indigenous People living in Canada (and written about some of them in this blog and beyond). But Robyn’s tweet hit me hard — it’s difficult to imagine three people disappearing from my family.
I wrote and asked Robyn, who is an activist for Indigenous people’s rights, to describe those incidents and the broader context of the lives of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Her powerful, authoritative answers, lightly edited by me, are below.
Can you tell me about the 3 women in your family that you Tweeted about — they all went missing in the last 3 years?
There were actually four that went missing within my family, all cousins. The fourth went missing in 1988 from a Cultus Lake campground in British Columbia (province) after she accepted a ride that was to take her home to Surrey, BC. She has never been found. Her name is Roberta Ferguson, and she was 19 years old at the time she was taken. Continue reading “Missing and murdered in Canada”
Canada has the best quality of life in the world, a survey has announced. But what if you live there and have been unable to drink the water coming out of your tap for 25 years without first boiling it? Or if you’re preparing to leave your home on short notice while community leaders consider an evacuation because mould growing in houses is causing skin rashes and respiratory ailments in a rising number of residents? There is reportedly a list of 100 children waiting to see a doctor.
You live in Canada. You:
Have been unable to drink the water coming out of your tap without first boiling it, for 25 years in the case of one community (1);
Are preparing to leave your home on short notice as community leaders consider an evacuation because mould growing in houses is causing skin rashes and respiratory ailments in rising numbers of residents. There is reportedly a list of 100 children waiting to see a doctor (2);
Have for decades complained about deformed fish being caught in nearby rivers and lakes after a paper mill routinely dumped mercury in the waters in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, kids whose mothers ate fish from those waters are four times more likely to have learning disabilities (3);
Hope that your community – including your teenage daughter – will not be the next one caught up in a wave of youth suicide. For indigenous people up to the age of 44, suicide is the leading cause of death (4).
These days I live in Nepal, where every once in a while a celebratory report appears in the news that a remote village has just been connected to the energy grid or road system. But it’s fairly rare to see such a headline in the media about Canada.
In Australia, the debate on Indigenous Peoples issues takes two forms: silence or romanticisation.
I’m constantly drawn to the similarities between the history of Indigenous People in Canada and Australia. In both places, settlers stole their land and tried to wipe out their cultures, mainly by taking children from their parents with an aim to ‘kill the Indian in the child’. (The approach was shockingly similar in the US also).
A senator apologist for Indian residential schools and a justice who bases a judgment on the devastating impact of those schools. It’s a good thing only one has decision-making powers.
Two Canadians in powerful positions with totally divergent views about the impact of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples: thankfully the one with the decision-making power has taken the time to understand the painful history, and legacy, of this atrocious system.
In January, Justice David Gibson of the Ontario Court of Justice wrote an insightful commentary on the history of Pikangikum, a First Nation community in northern Ontario.
Yesterday, 30 May, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized for the treatment meted out to First Nations children in the province’s residential schools and for the racism that underpinned the schools system.
The Canada brand has been trending everywhere since the election of a Liberal government led by photogenic Justin Trudeau on Oct 19, 2015. This resurgence has featured Trudeau’s ‘bromance’ with US President Barack Obama and the prime minister’s declaration to the Paris climate summit in November that, “Canada is back” to assume its historical role as a nation that punches above its weight in engaging in global issues.