On May 5, Canadians will wear red in memory of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The facts are disturbing.

There are 1,673,800 Indigenous peoples in Canada according to the 2016 Census. The RCMP’s last official tally notes 1,181 Indigenous women went missing or murdered between 1980 and 2012.  There are many discussions on the completeness of the report and potential undercount, but that’s another story.

What does this mean?  Here’s an analogy to consider.

Montréal has a population of 1.7 million, virtually the same population as the whole Indigenous population in Canada.  Imagine if this city lost over a thousand of its women and girls, missing and murdered, since 1980.  Every neighborhood in Montréal would know a girl or woman who was lost.  Numerous neighborhoods would be in states of mourning for recent losses. Every family would be touched.

This is a hypothetical for Montréal.

But this is not hypothetical for First Nations, Inuit and Métis in this country.  Every community knows a girl or woman who went missing or was murdered.  Communities are in states of mourning.  Some haven’t had the time to get out of mourning, as the losses continue.

Yes, this is not a historical problem. This is a problem for today.

Over 100 Indigenous women and girls have been lost since Trudeau took office just four years ago (CBC, Oct 10 2018).  In almost every society in the world, most women lost to homicide knew the perpetrator, a spouse or family member.  For Indigenous women and girls the truth is different – the risk is more from strangers and acquaintances.  And the majority of those lost were in urban areas.

The risk to Indigenous women and girls is both unique and staggering.  The risk of dying by homicide is six times higher for Indigenous women in this country.

We are at risk.  My Indigenous sisters are at risk.  We think about it almost daily.  My Facebook feed routinely has five or more pleas for help for missing Indigenous girls.

What can you do about it?  You can act.  Events on May 5 are memorials. But it’s also a day of action.  Because things need to change.

So first, talk about it.  Change starts when people talk about the problem in networks with friends and coworkers.

Next, if you see an Indigenous girl or woman needing help, please help.  Don’t be the bystander.  She is somebody’s sister/mother/daughter.

The tendency of police to dismiss calls for help when an Indigenous girl goes missing, this needs to stop.  And before you argue against this, consider just how many Amber Alerts have been for Indigenous children?  Email or tweet to the Canadian Police Association and to the RCMP, and ask them to lead the change to ensure that Indigenous people receive the excellent service that any other Canadian deserves.

The lack of attention in policy and action needs to be challenged.  Ask candidates in municipal, provincial/territorial and national elections, ask them about MMIWG and what he or she will do to contribute to safety for Indigenous women and girls.  This is a great example of ally-ship, you can amplify the voices of Indigenous peoples by asking this question.

Daily acts of racism against Indigenous peoples needs to stop, both the overt and mean acts of racism, but also the subtle racism which makes Indigenous individuals invisible in the waiting room just waiting for service.  Because both kinds of racism contribute to Indigenous peoples being dehumanized in this country.  When one group of humans is dehumanized….you know the story from World War II, and that story started with racism too.  Challenge racism when you see it.

Indigenous sisters and mothers and daughters need you to act.  May 5 is a memorial to honour those we have lost.  And it’s a call to action.

 

MMIWG numbers: https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/mmiwg-list-cases-1.4856500

Population statistics: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/171025/dq171025a-eng.htm

CBC article: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2018001/article/54980-eng.htm

RCMP report: http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/files/national-operational-overview.pdf

NWAC: https://www.nwac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Fact_Sheet_Missing_and_Murdered_Aboriginal_Women_and_Girls.pdf