More than 1,200 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered in Canada. This number represents the number of women and girls that Canada has failed. It represents a system, a culture and a society that has continually told Indigenous women, girls and their families that their lives are disposable. It took the tragic story of Tina Fontaine coupled with those 1,200 women going missing before the government launched an inquiry.
Tina Fontaine was a 15-year old girl whose story could, and should have ended differently. Tina’s story and life exposes the inter-generational trauma and systemic prejudice that Indigenous People experience. Tina’s aunt tried her best to help Tina and hoped that she would get help in the foster care system to cope with her father’s violent and tragic death. On the last day she was seen alive, Tina was in contact with Manitoba Child and Family Services, local police and paramedics: All failed to take her into care despite being listed as a missing person. It was the whole system that failed Tina and exposed the dark underbelly of racism that exists in Canada.
We talk about reconciliation, but we fail to make real, sustainable changes to undo the systematic oppression and discrimination Indigenous People face. We fail as a country to acknowledge the conscious attempts to eradicate Indigenous people from this land that settlers stole and called home. We fail to acknowledge that our constitution was written by white, English and French-speaking men with little to no concern for the wellbeing and welfare of those who were here first. We talk about building a nation-to-nation relationship, but for more than a century, the central goals of Canada’s Indigenous policy were to eliminate Indigenous governments; ignore Indigenous rights; terminate the Treaties; and through a process of assimilation, cause Indigenous peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than other women in Canada. It’s no surprise that Indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence. In our work at YW, we see a disproportional representation of Indigenous women accessing our poverty, violence and housing related services. We hear stories that are grounded in generational trauma and racism and know that we must do better.
So today, take a moment and talk with your loved ones about the outcome of Tina’s trial and remind every Indigenous youth in your life that they matter, they’re loved and they are not alone.
Indigenous lives matter, women’s lives matter.
We must do better.