“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 developed—there 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…
Posted by Cara Mumford. Posted In : "When It Rains"