Content warning: This blog post deals with violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people.
May 5 is the National Day of Awareness and Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Gender diverse people. On this day we aim to raise awareness about this ongoing crisis and take action. On this day we remember the people who have lost their lives to colonial, gender-based violence, and their families and communities that live daily with the grief of losing loved ones.
The Final Report on the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released in June 2019. There were 2,836 individuals who participated in the truth–gathering process and 231 calls to justice were recommended. To date, there has been little action on the calls to justice. In our efforts to raise awareness of this ongoing crisis we remember people who have lost their lives to colonial, gender-based violence and their families and communities who live daily with the grief of losing loved ones. Gladys Radek’s story, entitled Vanish, is only one of the many stories that were shared in the Inquiry. Here is her story:
“Tamara Lynn Chipman stole her Daddy’s heart from the moment she was born. Even her Mom knew she would be a Daddy’s girl forever. When Tamara lost her Grampa – her favourite person in the world – she clung to her Daddy and became his little shadow. Tamara loved fishing boats, fast cars, and dogs. She was an adventurer. She grew into a tall, lanky, charming, beautiful young lady with a smile that would brighten anybody’s day – from Daddy’s little tomboy to a young mother at age 19, forever bonded with her son. She was never afraid of anything and lived life to the fullest.
Then, one day, out of the blue, something out of the ordinary happened. There were no phone calls, no knock on the door, no cheery hello, no more, ‘Hey Daddy, what we going to do today?’ All of a sudden, our world came crashing down. Tamara had vanished. Days turned into weeks, a month and then into years. She disappeared on September 21, 2005 from the northernmost tip of the Highway of Tears in British Columbia.
Our family conducted search parties through the mountains, along the railroad tracks, in ditches and culverts and tread through the back allies of communities where angels wouldn’t dare tread. We searched local, provincial, national and international waters for our baby girl only to realize that there were so many more missing, like her.
The eternal flame will continue to burn in the hopes that someday soon she will bounce in that door and say, ‘Hey Daddy, what we going to do today?’ We wonder, is she warm, is she safe, is she alive, and is she being held against her will, is she being raped or tortured, is she being bought or sold? What happened to her, is she dead? Somewhere out there someone knows something; we pray that someday they will come forward and tell us the truth. This thought runs through the minds of all the families of our missing loved ones, the thousands of us who wake up to this nightmare every single day.
Of all of the hurtful experiences associated with the vanishing of a loved one, one of the most is the racism displayed when our First Nations loved ones disappear. We hear things like “I heard she was just a party animal,” or, “Was she wanted by the cops?” Or, the worst of all, that she “lived a high-risk lifestyle.” These labels have taught mainstream society that all our women and girls are just that – prostitutes, addicts and hitchhikers, and therefore not worthy of care or effort.
This is not true: Tamara is loved, now and forever. The Government of Canada as a whole has the responsibility of ensuring every citizen is protected by the laws of the land; all people living in Canada have the responsibility to live in peace and with respect for basic human rights, including safety and justice. It is time for justice, closure, accountability, equality and true reconciliation.
It is time to END VIOLENCE against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. What do we want? JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!”
This violence is a direct result of the colonial history of this country. In Alberta specifically, there are 93 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. This accounts for 16% of all cases in NWAC’s database. The number of cases in Alberta is second only to British Columbia (which accounts for about 28% of all cases). Women aged 31-44 represent almost a third of all disappearances in Alberta. This is much higher than the national average (21%).
Gender-based violence has always been a tool of colonization. Colonization can be described as the deliberate disconnection of First Nations communities from their land, resources and ways of being.
Too many members of the Women’s Centre community have been affected by this ongoing colonial violence, and we recognize that all of us are treaty people. As an organization, we are committed to acting on the Calls to Justice laid out in the Final Report. To start, we are hosting the first of many conversations on May 5 from 1-2:30pm online to chat about how we as an organization and community can take action. At this event, after spending time honoring the stories of Indigenous women, we will share what we have in the works at the Women’s Centre and invite participants to share their feedback on what else we could be doing. To sign up to attend, please visit the following link.
We encourage you to look at the Calls to Justice and make your own commitments to action. If you want to share how you are committing to taking action to end violence against Indigenous Women and Girls, or have suggestions for the Women’s Centre, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other resources you can check out to learn more and take action are:
This MMIWG2S padlet, put together by our Reconciliation and Environment Coordinator Bobbi-Jo Amos.
The REDress Project, created by Métis artist Jaime Black to draw attention to the gendered and radicalized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous women.
The statistics cited above can be found here. For more information on MMIWG2S and violence prevention, visit the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s website.
If you require support, please call the Support Line 1-844-413-6649 or visit https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/contact/. This is an independent, national, toll-free support call line is available to provide support for anyone who requires assistance. This line is available free of charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.