Friday, February 15, 2008

Coverage of Sudbury Event Commemorating Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

More than 70 Sudbury residents, both indigenous and settler, gathered yesterday in Memorial Park to honour the memories of indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing in Canada and to voice a challenge to the ways in which the Canadian settler state is complicit in the violence experienced by indigenous women.

For a short news video of the event, click here. (The site on which this is posted is new, and I'm not sure how long that link will work.)

Here is an article from today's Sudbury Star:

A voice for missing women; Thursday ceremony spotlights hundreds of murdered natives
By Rachel Punch

Savannah Trudeau often doesn't feel safe when she's alone and, as a young aboriginal woman, those feelings are justified.

Hundreds of First Nations women - including about 30 in Ontario - have been murdered or simply vanished in the last few decades.

It's a statistic Trudeau, a 20-year-old from Wikemikong, finds frightening.

"It makes me think I have to have somebody there beside me at all times in case something goes wrong," Trudeau said. "I kind of feel scared walking downtown, not just in Sudbury, but anywhere."

Trudeau was one of about 75 people who rallied Thursday afternoon at Memorial Park to raise awareness and remember women who have been murdered or gone missing.

"We're just here to represent our sisters who have gone missing. We're here in support," Trudeau said.

Marjorie Beaudry, a Laurentian University student, organized the event.

"It's to give our condolences to all the families that have lost a sister, mother, daughter or a friend. It's also to create awareness to other aboriginal young women to say 'Hey, there is danger out there so be aware and be careful.' "

The story of Robert Pickton, the mass murderer responsible for the deaths of several women who went missing in Vancouver, has raised awareness about the issue there. It's a problem not unique to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Beaudry said an estimated 500 First Nations women have been reported missing across Canada. Others have been brutally murdered.

Kelly Morrisseau, 27, was seven months pregnant when she was found naked and bloody in Gatineau Park in Ottawa in December 2006. The mother of three died in hospital. Diane Dobson, 36, was found dead in a ditch near Windsor in February 1995.

And here is the text of a statement about the need for the white settler population to take up our responsibility to support struggles against colonization and the violence experienced by indigenous women. It was delivered at the event by a member of Sudbury Against War and Occupation.

Good afternoon.

My name is Clarissa Lassaline and I’m involved with a group of Sudbury folks firmly opposed to war and occupation. The fact that Canada exists as an occupation of First Nations Lands has become increasingly important to our thinking about indigenous struggles and white settler solidarity and responsibility. Colonialism is not solely a remnant of an historical past. Colonial and racist relations continue to play out every day across Canada. Theft of indigenous lands and resources is ongoing whether on Coast Salish Territory in the West, or Six Nations in southern Ontario, Grassy Narrows up North, or the KI folks in northwestern Ontario being sued by Platinex for protecting their land against mineral expoitation. And the hundreds of land struggles in-between. Often these attempted take-overs are accompanied by the full weight of the guns of the law, like those that murdered unarmed Dudley George as he was protecting along with others a site sacred to his people. Or the incarceration system that killed ailing West Coast Elder and warrior Harriet Nahanee ….imprisoned for standing up against 2010 Olympic expansions on Squamish land.

But theft of indigenous land and resources, criminalization of their dissent and outright murder is not the whole story. Current state and societal practices and politics reinforce and extend a many-faceted violent oppression against First Nations across Canada. The Canadian State and its institutions – including the justice system, its laws and courts, coroners offices and police forces, and the media – continue to actively perpetrate discrimination, violent sexist and racist behaviour and genocide against Native people. The deliberate inaction of authorities in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is not the exception but the norm for sex workers in general. The deliberate inaction of authorities in the violence against First Nations women everywhere across the country is the norm. And a verdict of only 2nd degree murder for the brutal butchering of six indigenous women – that too is the norm. Often the killers are never even prosecuted or brought to justice. First Nations women have gone missing from communities big and small all over Canada, targets of sexual and racist violence and hate crimes, unprotected by the authorities responsible and amidst deliberate widespread indifference.

Yet the position that we - the white settler population - have in these widespread violent practices is far from neutral. Our ways, our mostly middle-class values, power and privileges are imposed and maintained by the Canadian state institutions that act with impunity in our name and on our behalf. We have a responsibility. Responsibility lays with us to stop ignoring what the state apparatus does or doesn’t do, stop collaborating with it, condemn it, demand a better way of doing things for everybody that values the life of everyone equally. We need to learn for ourselves how to decolonize our thinking and practices so that we can begin to work as allies of First Nations peoples, not as their oppressors. Otherwise, violence against indigenous people, particularly aboriginal women and young girls, will continue just because they are aboriginal people.


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