Executive Director, Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)
To say Indigenous women are treated like trash is not a metaphor.
The serial murders that occurred in Winnipeg, Manitoba are a national tragedy, another example of racism and hate. It is this hate and disrespect that continues to put the safety of Indigenous women at risk – with ongoing genocide its direct result.
The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) recognizes and honours families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We stand in unity with the families in Manitoba who are grieving the loss of their loved ones, and all those who continue to search for their missing women and girls.
But all the vigils and words of support are not going to bring our sisters back. Ignorance and complacency are no longer an excuse. This national nightmare must end.
Indigenous women, like all people, have the fundamental right to life and to live in safety. To continue to call this crisis ongoing, these murders another tragic example, is no longer a position this country can tolerate.
It is time for Canada to have a serious, transparent conversation. It is time for Canadians to change the story of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Supporting and working alongside Indigenous women for over 50 years, ONWA knows all too well that many Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people are not safe in their everyday lives.
Almost six in ten Indigenous women have experienced physical assault and almost half have experienced sexual assault, compared to about a third of non-Indigenous women. While we share the lived experience of misogyny, racism and hate are what lead to the kind of targeting that happened in Winnipeg.
Indigenous women have fought for decades to prove that Canada and its provinces and territories have a systemic issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It took years for the National Inquiry to be approved and to gather information for the final report. Yet Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people are still going missing and being murdered even now, as we wait for progress on the National Action Plan.
Indigenous women know what they need to be safe. It is time for Canadians and governments at all levels to listen and act.
The country needs to focus on addressing root causes and prevention against these tragedies by supporting Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people – empowering them, protecting their rights, and assisting them in reclaiming their leadership role within their communities. The critical recommendations in ONWA’s report Reconciliation with Indigenous Women: Changing the Story of MMIWG (2020) must be integrated and implemented without further delays.
This situation demands that we address the lurking hate that continues to put the safety of Indigenous women at risk. Governments must make resources available. Police forces must take action and work together with communities to identify other victims. We demand accountability.
All levels of government must act to support Indigenous women's organizations in this work, to ensure our sustainability and reinforce our focus on Indigenous women’s safety. Together, we can change the statistics for our most vulnerable group of women in our society and reduce the risk of their victimization by hateful predators.
As a national community, we need to create visions of safety, visions of mutual respect. We must look at how we can work together, starting within our own communities to ensure Indigenous women and girls are safe, no matter where they live in Canada.
We must end this genocide and bring closure to the families of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls who are still waiting to know where their sisters, mothers, and daughters are – who pray they have not been left in a landfill, who are still waiting for them to come home.
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