Canada kicked off the New Year with a promise from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work on aboriginal women’s issues in the nation. In recent years, Canada has come under fire for its neglect of major issues in the aboriginal community, including rates of domestic, sexual, and other types of violence against women. Last year, we did a piece on what you need to know about the issues in the nation, and it’s time to revisit it with the new government in place.
For First Nations (aboriginal) women, disappearance and murder rates are high in proportion to how many identify within the community. The Royal Canadian Police reported in July 2015 that aboriginal women are three to four times more likely to be abducted or killed than non-native Canadian women. Former leaders have denounced the need for further study of what causes such high rates, likening it to mere crimes – but it is evident that there may be social and cultural forces at play.
Trudeau launched the beginnings of a public inquiry into these issues in December, aiming to meet up with First Nations families throughout the country. Given that activists and First Nations families have been calling for a better investigation into such issues for many years, this is crucial first step in figuring out how to best work with a problem that shows few signs of fixing itself. Once the government gathers enough detail and cultural context on how to best go about conducting a proper investigation, it will launch a full-fledged inquiry into the murder rate. As reported by The Guardian, while the female native population only makes up 4% of Canada’s women, they comprise 16% of female homicide rates. This is proportionally problematic.
An inquiry will not solve all issues, however. What Trudeau’s government is currently doing helps the situation to some degree – by changing the lens with which mainstream views First Nations problems, but the reality is that they won’t solve every single murder case. Nonetheless, the actions taken by the government could create a culture of accountability and in the future deter others from committing these same acts.
At the moment, groups are working alongside First Nations communities in Canada–predatory lending and hunger, for example, are some of the issues that they face that grassroots organizers are working to combat. Only time will tell how successful it is in the country, but given historical results of eliminating hunger and major disease from conflicted communities throughout time, it seems to be an effective process. With less instability and insecurity, mental and physical health conditions will be better, and rates of violence against women will go down as a byproduct. As for the federal study on what’s happening with women in native communities, HelloFlo will report back when the results are out in the spring.
Cover image courtesy of iPolitics.