Too many MMIWG a year after national inquiry report

RED DRESS STATEMENT––A Manitoulin installation of the REDress Project could be found on the Little Current swing bridge on Sunday, placed there by the Anishinabe Youth Warrior Society of Wikwemikong. The red dresses and clothing are meant to symbolize the almost 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. On Sunday red dresses could be found hanging from public spaces across the country. photos by Alicia McCutcheon

It has been two years since the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), and yet Indigenous women and girls remain five times more likely to experience violence than any other population in Canada. That violence is far more likely to result in serious harm.

Indigenous families reporting concern over missing female members still meet with an apparent lack of concern on the part of authorities in communities across this nation.

This despite the stark facts of the matter.

Indigenous women make up 16 percent of homicide victims and comprise 11 percent of all missing women, this in spite of Indigenous people making up barely 4.3 percent of the population of Canada. Indigenous women are three times as likely to be victims of violence and the available data is generally considered to be the tip of the iceberg by those working on the ground. Between 2001 and 2014, the relative rate of Indigenous female homicide victims outpaced those of non-Indigenous victims fourfold.

These facts are unconscionable.

There is much that has been done since the MMIWG national inquiry was called, but the tide remains far from turned. Progress has been made in the realm of cultural competency training, anti-racism programs and anti-sexism training for public servants, particularly police and those working in the justice system, but an underlying culture of racism still remains strong.

May 5 marks the National Day of Awareness for MMIWG in Canada, also known as Red Dress Day, but our nation must not continue to shrug off the mantle of awareness when the sun sets on May 5. It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also stands that it takes a nation to protect women and children, and no person should be left more vulnerable simply by reason of being of Indigenous descent.

Let each of us reflect on MMIWG on May 5, certainly, but when the sun rises the next day, let us all endeavour to do all within our power to make the tragedy of MMIWG an historical artifact rather than the day-to-day lived experience of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.