Dear Prime Minister Harper:
I am a retired educator. My wife and I have paid attention for many years to the aspirations and also the discrimination and yes even the cultural and geographic genocide that my people, European ‘settlers’ have inflicted on the First Nations or Indigenous people who lived in North America or ‘Turtle Island’ for millenia before we came to their shores. We all know that the First Nations peoples at first welcomed our ancestors but that over a few centuries, we European ‘settlers’ have taken all the land and resources once used by the Indigenous peoples, sometimes through treaties that the First Nations signed in good faith as a ‘sharing of the land and resources’, but which the European settler governments took to be a ‘complete taking of the land and resources’. In fact there are many places in what is known as Canada where First Nations people have never signed over their land to the Crown and are in fact sovereign nations.
I know that you have apologized on all Canadians’ behalf for the cultural and language genocide of the Residential Schools, even the deaths and unmarked gravesites for many of the children who attended and were never returned to their grieving families. I thank you for that apology, but with those words of ‘sorry’ must come real actions.
One of the terrible consequences of there seeming to be a two tiered justice system, education system and health care system – one for European ‘settlers’ and another for Indigenous people, which accompanies the very real discrimination and disrespect of Indigenous people by their ‘settler’ neighbours, has been the raping and murdering of Indigenous women, across Canada, with little being done to bring to justice the perpetrators or at least long lag times before any action is taken – the Willy Picton case comes to mind. The attitude has seemed to be that the missing women are ‘just Indians’ so they don’t matter to the police or the courts. This racist attitude has to end.
Today, October 4, 2012 there are vigils across Canada to bring to the attention of Canadians – a desire on the part of our Indigenous neighbours to end the injustice, discrimination and inaction that has characterized police, other authorities’ and our own attitudes toward our Indigenous neighbours. Let us all take action to make right our relations.
I have copied the words of a petition by the ‘Native Women’s Association of Canada’, that addresses this issue and I agree with its message and request for action on the part of the government of Canada.
“The Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented over 582 occurrences of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls. We know that there are more cases that have not been documented. We also know that this epidemic of violence is continuing to claim more lives and irreparably harm more families every month.
Addressing this issue requires that the factors causing it are correctly identified, and that those individuals, processes and policies responsible for maintaining the status quo – and the subsequent harms to Aboriginal women and girls – are remedied. Recommendations and ACTION for change are needed to increase the safety of Aboriginal women and girls in all walks of life across Canada.
I support holding a National Inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. I also ask that you involve those most affected by this tragic issue – Aboriginal women – in the design, decision-making, process and implementation of this inquiry.
Such an inquiry would be a crucial step in implementing a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan. As our organizations have repeatedly urged, such a response is necessary to address the scale and severity of violence faced by Aboriginal women and girls.
In closing, we express our sincere thanks and gratitude to the families. Many are here today and we thank them for sharing their stories. You are the reason we continue to demand action. We are honoured to walk beside you on this journey!
Moreover, we acknowledge that families and communities must take the lead in this movement. Their stories need to be heard, and their initiatives supported. Relationships must be nurtured and further strengthened with other families, as well as with grassroots women and men, organizations, and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities across Turtle Island.”
I hope you and your government will take strong action on these requests. I would like a reply outlining what you will do regarding these requests by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.