The fulfillment of the Calls for Justice requires a decolonizing approach

Bernie Williams (Elder Council) and Michelle Audette (Commissioner) have continued like many committed to seeing an approach that honours and respects Indigenous values, philosophies and knowledge systems.  photo by Gina Gasongi Simon

A tornado touched down in the Ottawa region on the eve of the release of the final report of the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on June 2. Granted, some felt the impact-directly while others read about it or watched the aftermath on television. Sure, that tornado ripped roofs and toppled trees, but luckily nobody was killed. 

Now imagine another type of tornado that’s violently wound with hatred, racism and fear bound at every level imaginable, sweeping through the Indigenous (First Nations, Metis, Inuit…the list goes on) nations across Canada, and this tornado I’m writing about has not stopped.

It continues to take lives and yet who has truly taken notice and who is taking account? Not the state, nor its policing, lawmakers or politicians, according to many of the Indigenous women and girls who gave testimony to the final report.

Every drop of blood and tears in the pages of this report, each and every story shared with the hope for change, a better tomorrow and brighter future. Honestly, how does one revisit a piece of your heart that has been ripped out? I’m not a mother, nor sister, grandmother, dad or brother but a friend of many who have had a piece of their heart, their memories torn away, without answers, without explanation as to why.

This is how I feel after the dust settles. Sitting here in the aftermath, of pages of pain and tears, yet witnessing a form of resilience and strength unbeknownst to many that proves no matter how deep, generations of systemic, colonialist and racist attitudes prevail, Indigenous women will not be defeated. Nor will Indigenous women sit down and take it anymore! The Indigenous women’s voice and presence has been leading the charge in many demonstrations across Canada. Our presence, armed with banners and drums, have participated in many so-called defiant protests and given voice and strength to many Canadian women in general by just speaking up.

Yes, it was a big show of grandeur and hype and after all the dust settled it’s almost eerie. Indigenous women from across Canada with their family and friends hanging out in the lobby of the hotel, murmurs of conversation about what was, what is and what would or could be. Stories of how to carry the legacy of the women and girls written about in the thousands of pages. 

Outside my hotel room as I recount the day, I hear the echoes of their laughter resonate every now and then, ricochet off the walls of this concrete jungle and bounce across the street off the curved walls of the Museum of Civilization and History, the location of the report’s release.

How ironic is it and yet how powerful that the voices in this report are blended with the spirit of our ancestors housed in the national museum, separated only by the Ottawa River from Canada’s Parliament buildings, where the next steps to change remain in the hands of voters and the hands of politicians looking for another vote of confidence. 

I ask like so many ask, ‘Will they have the political will to make change for today?’ And ‘Will Canadians stand by and be complacent or take action?’

I invite you to watch the women speaking their truths and read the report. Then experience your own truth.