Have you seen my sister?

When I was growing up I thought it was hard being someone of mixed heritage, I thought no one understands how hard it is to grow up off rez.  For years I thought like that, the us-versus-them mentality,never realizing that folks had it much harder. Being a young man you never really appreciate the beauty in life until it’s gone.

The path I walk now began when my mother died.  My mother was a great artist, a good mother and a Mohawk woman but it wasn’t until a few short years ago that I truly understood what that meant.

I first came across the story of missing women two-and-a-half years ago when I did a story on the Highway of Tears for Native Solidarity News.   Being curious and wanting to learn more about this issue, what I found were stories of women vanishing at alarming rates all over the country.

To find out more I contacted the Native Women’s Association of Canada and that’s when I heard about the Sisters in Spirit initiative.  Wanting to do something to help, I set up the vigil in Montreal in hopes of raising awareness.

Since then the Montreal Vigil has only grown and so has awareness about the problem which only seems to be getting worse. Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander are the latest to disappear yet I see no Amber Alerts for either of them, why is that?

In Canada it seems that only people of certain status and ethnic background get the best service.  There are literally hundreds of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls in this country yet where is our justice system? I do not understand why has it gotten so bad?  Why are Native women such easy targets and why is this issue not taken seriously?

When my mother was 18 she was gang-raped by five men in Montreal’s East End; they left her broken and bleeding.  She died never knowing true justice.  Those guys are probably still walking around free as birds.  When people ask why this has continued to go on, all you have to do is look at Ottawa for the answer.

“I believe there is no empirical evidence to suggest that there is discrimination against Aboriginals in the justice system,” states Stockwell Day, the Minister of Public Safety.  With a comment like that what do people expect, here is a politician who seems educated making a very ignorant statement!

Ignorance is definitely at the heart of the problem, the media reports on us whenever a bridge or highway is blocked off.  They focus on the radicals because that’s newsworthy.  But a young girl who sells her body for crack and who eventually kills herself because of too much abuse or neglect doesn’t even get a sound bite.

So when a young Native woman goes missing don’t expect to see much of it on the news because it isn’t important.  Which begs the question what do we do?  How do we fight to bring attention to this issue when the people holding all the cards are making all the rules?

Vancouver serial killer Robert Pickton was just the tip of the iceberg and his convictions were only a fraction what he really did.  There are dozens of Picktons out there preying on women but the justice system isn’t doing a damn thing about it.  The fact of matter is no one wants to hear about it. No one wants to hear about a sex worker, drug addict or homeless person dying or going missing when it concerns Native women.

What we need to do as a people is become stronger, tear down these stereotypes and show the world that we’re not going to be a target anymore, that we’re never going to give up no matter how much our politicians and media ignore this issue.  I hope that with every vigil that we hold we can bring this issue to light. We must rediscover ourselves!

The Cree have a saying that a child is not raised just by his/her parents but by the whole community and that’s what we need to do.  We need to fight for our children, our communities and most of all ourselves!

Too many have gone missing and that needs to stop now!

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One comment

  • September 8th, 2009

    Dear Irkar:

    Very great that you are getting the word out on this situation with Aboriginal women. Why do you think they are falling through the cracks? I suspect literacy issues, lack of knowledge of karmic truths/white cultural information and lack of aptitude testing so they can find their perfect education and niche for work. Why aren’t these women with their Fated Others and having families? Would love to hear from you,

    with thanks,

    Rebecca Banks

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