Shaken then Stirred Up

March 20, 2014


There are some events that shake us to our core. For me, one such event happened on December 6, 1989. The Montreal Massacre.  I remember getting off the bus on a bitterly cold morning before class on December 7 (I didn’t have a TV to see the news the night before). I remember a group of women huddled together in front of the newspaper boxes, reading one paper, silent with shock. 

“Man kills 14 women in Montreal.”

But this is Canada! I thought, back when I thought that made a difference. Spree killings don’t happen here, my naïveté insisted. And all of the victims were women? That doesn’t happen in Canada, either… Right? Little did I know that a man in British Columbia was about to start an even more haunting killing spree targeting women that would last for over 20 years.

I was a second year science student at McMaster University in 1989, feeling safe in the confines of the academy, the same age as the majority of the women killed at L’École Polytechnique, a school for engineering… I had almost studied engineering. My ability to identify with these women ripped away any illusion I’d had that I was safe as a woman in Canada in the present day.

On February 26, 2014, after more than 20 years of feminist activism, environmental activism and Indigenous activism, my ability to identify with Loretta Saunders ripped me apart again. 

As Tara Williamson pointed out, being urban, educated and light-skinned didn’t protect Loretta. I am ashamed to acknowledge that, on some level, I thought it would protect me. I hadn’t realized that any illusion of safety had crept back into my life somewhere, somehow; I only discovered it was there as it was ripped away again.

There is no safety for any of us until real action is taken for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

I used to be naïve enough to think that if we had a government less hostile to Indigenous people, things might be different. If we had a national inquiry with sufficient scope to lay the facts bare for all Canadians, things would be different. If that inquiry had the authority to not just make recommendations but ensure they’re implemented, that we would be well on our way to solutions.

Solutions that include reinstating sustained funding for community-led victim services and advocacy, reinstating funding to maintain a national database on missing Indigenous women, assigning funding to “cold cases” because too many of these cases get closed before they are even investigated. Solutions that include creating national and provincial standards for missing persons investigations developed in partnership with Aboriginal groups, communities and families of the missing and murdered women. It is also crucial to admit that the racism and sexism that pervades Canadian society is mirrored in law enforcement, resulting in discriminatory policies and practices. Strategies to effectively eradicate those prejudices must be developedthere should be zero tolerance for racism and sexism in policing. And I’m sure the advocates who work directly with these issues could give you even more ideas.

But, as Leanne Simpson pointed out: what the colonizers have always been trying to figure out is “How do you extract natural resources from the land when the peoples whose territory you’re on believe that those plant, animal and minerals have both spirit and therefore agency?”

When I read those words, it all came into focus. 

Until Canada stops being hell bent on extracting every fossil fuel and every natural resource from this land and invests, instead, in the abundant intellectual resources we have in the scientific community and in Indigenous knowledge that could provide tangible solutions for a clean and sustainable future globally… Until Canada embraces that future, it’s not in the government’s interests to admit that the ongoing issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women even exists 

It’s a disturbing realization that leaves me hollow inside. But from the depth of that hollow place, a resolve stirs inside me. A call to action.

The connection between resource extraction and violence against Indigenous women has never been clearer to me, and I will be fighting that much harder to end both. In Loretta’s name, in Bella’s name, in the name of all our sisters…

#ItEndsHere

This post was inspired by the #ItEndsHere series published on the Indigenous Nationhood Movement blog. Read the full series with an introduction by Lee Maracle here

 

International Women's Day 2013

March 11, 2013
Last Friday, I had the honour of speaking to Women's House Serving Bruce Grey County, in the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway, for their International Women's Day Celebration. The international theme this year was The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum. My interpretation of that theme was that in order to build and maintain the momentum, we need to recognize that violence affects women of all cultures, but the form of that violence often differs. We need to listen to each other, to respect and honour those differences, in order to end violence against all women.

I was delightfully surprised to be contacted by Lori Bamber regarding this event; she interviewed me for the Globe & Mail's special International Women's Day feature on Friday, March 8 (see below). I was thrilled when they included my photo from the "I Matter" campaign created by the Marsha Ellen Meidow Foundation to go accompany it. I thought it was fitting because I was planning on sharing a brief clip of the "I Matter" video in my presentation, along with "December 6" and "When It Rains." But, for me, it was far more than simply suitable because Marsha's mom, Beverly Meidow, was accompanying me to the event and Marsha's presence was strongly felt that night.

FYI, Women's House is currently redesigning their website and the new site will include "December 6," so remember to check back!

International Women's Day 2013 by

 

When sleeping women wake, mountains move: #IdleNoMore

December 28, 2012
As a Canadian who believes in democracy, I am beyond frustrated by Harper and his cronies running rough shod over our political system. When you have a majority government, you have a responsibility to govern for ALL of the people, not just the constituents who voted for you. But Harper's Conservatives apparently feel no such responsibility. As Elizabeth May said, "No previous Privy Council in the history of this country has ever equated an amendment to a bill between first reading and royal assent as some sort of political defeat that must be avoided at all costs. This is a level of parliamentary partisanship that takes leave of its senses."

As an environmentalist who has been fighting to protect the earth since my first “Save The Whales” campaign when I was 8 years old, I believe that the legally binding treaty rights of Canada’s First Nations are the only thing standing between Harper and his plans to destroy this planet.

As a proud Métis whose family signed Treaty 4 and was then discharged from Treaty for their participation in the Riel Resistance, I don’t want to see anyone else lose their rights to their land, thereby destroying their way of life and disconnecting them from their culture.

As an artist whose films address issues of social justice in an attempt to shift perspectives and create dialogue, I think the Idle No More movement is a vitally important shift in the dialogue on Indigenous issues in this country and around the world.  

As a woman, I believe the Chinese proverb “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” The work that I do, creating films to draw attention to issues of violence against women, is meant to empower women to stand up for themselves and others. So for anyone who doesn’t think that Idle No More is also about the 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women known as the Stolen Sisters, think again. Our women are vital to healthy communities. Our nation is strong only when our women are strong. And between Chief Theresa Spence and the four women who started Idle No More (Sheelah McLean, Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam & Jessica Gordon) our nation is strong indeed.

Here is the one-minute film I created as part of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival’s Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative. I plan on expanding this film and submitting it to festivals later this year, but wanted to share it with the world during this time of Idle No More:
 
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