National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Today I am writing you not only as the President of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) but also as a son, a husband, a father of a young woman and as a man who wants to end violence against women.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada commemorates one of the great tragedies in Canadian history. On December 6, 1989, 14 women at L'École Polytechnique de Montréal were murdered in cold blood for no other reason other than that they were women. Since then December 6 has become a day that all Canadians can reflect on gender-based violence and ways that communities can take concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
While gender-based violence affects everyone, part of the legacy of colonialism is the cycle of intergenerational trauma resulting from systemic abuse that has left generations of Aboriginal women particularly vulnerable to acts of violence and crime. Statistics clearly indicate that Aboriginal women are significantly over-represented as victims of assault, sexual assault, spousal abuse and homicide. Métis, First Nations and Inuit women are three and a half times more likely to experience spousal violence than non-Aboriginal women. The rate of spousal homicide for Aboriginal women is eight times greater than that of non-Aboriginal women. In some northern Ontario communities it is estimated that 75 to 90 per cent of women experience violence. These are not numbers. These are our sisters, moms, grandmas, aunties, daughters and granddaughters.
There are over 3,000 missing or presumed dead Aboriginal women across Canada and many communities have walked to bring awareness, to bring change, and to acknowledge and remember these lost women. We have called for action and public inquiries into the murdered and missing Aboriginal women but we still wait for answers.
It is not enough however to wait for others to take action. Accordingly since 2010 the MNO, along with the Ontario Federation Indian Friendship Centres, Ontario Native Women’s Association, Chiefs of Ontario, and Independent First Nations, has been part of the Joint Working Group to End Violence Against Aboriginal women. Together we are committed to addressing the root causes of abuse within our Aboriginal communities.
The MNO has also, with funding from the Ministry of the Attorney General, initiated a Victim Services program. This program offers services at 18 MNO offices across Ontario and advocates for victims while also supporting and building violence-free communities. Recently we have secured funding and are working with our partners to address sexual violence and the human trafficking of people with a focus on high-risk areas like Thunder Bay.
While ongoing programs and awareness will help, the responsibility for healing our communities from violence against women lies with all of us. On December 6, 2013, please take time to remember all the victims of gender-based violence and join us in working to end all forms of violence against women.
Thank you, Marsi, Megwetch,
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Métis Nation of Ontario