The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada commemorates one of the greatest tragedies in Canadian history. On December 6, 1989, 14 women at L’École Polytechnique de Montréal were murdered in cold blood for no reason other than that they were women. Since then, December 6 has become a day when Canadians 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 Indigenous women particularly vulnerable to acts of violence and crime.
Indigenous women and girls suffer disproportionately high levels of violence in all its forms and the result of that violence negatively impacts the wellbeing of Métis families, communities and our whole nation.
Statistics clearly indicate that Indigenous women are significantly over-represented as victims of assault, sexual assault, spousal abuse and homicide. Indigenous women are three and a half times more likely to experience spousal violence than non-Indigenous women. Two-spirited and street-engaged Métis youth are particularly at risk.
According to the RCMP’s own statistics, over 1,181 Indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered, however this number only reflects RCMP records and does not include incidents from other police forces or those incidents that go unreported.
While the statistics are staggering, these aren’t just numbers. The impacts on our families and communities are very real and hit close to home. These are our sisters, moms, grandmas, aunties, daughters and granddaughters.
There are underlying problems and contributing factors that need to be examined and these issues will be under review by the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) fought for.
As the government for Métis people in Ontario, the MNO has long been concerned about the issue of violence against Indigenous women and girls. We have been a full partner in Ontario’s Joint Working Group to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women and a signatory to the Framework to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women, along with the Ontario Federation Indigenous Friendship Centres, Ontario Native Women’s Association, Chiefs of Ontario, and Independent First Nations. In February of 2016, the MNO was very proud to be part of the launch of Walking Together: Ontario’s Long Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women, which is an outcome of the work of the MNO and its partners. Together, we are committed to addressing the root causes of violence and abuse within our Indigenous communities.
At its 2014 Annual General Assembly, the MNO unanimously adopted the Métis Nation of Ontario Declaration to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women. The MNO has also, with funding from the Ministry of the Attorney General, established a Victim Services program to support our communities. This program offers services at MNO offices across Ontario and advocates for victims while also supporting violence-free communities.
The MNO is currently in the process of launching the new Métis Family Wellbeing Program in all 29 MNO Community Council areas across Ontario. This program is being delivered as part of Walking Together: Ontario’s Long Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women and is intended to support families to heal the effects of intergenerational trauma, reduce violence, and address the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in child welfare and youth justice systems.
We took all these steps because it is not enough to wait for others to take action. This is an issue that no one government, including the MNO, can fully address alone. It requires our collective commitment and actions. We will take a strong stance doing all we can as Métis, and united with our First Nations and Inuit brothers and sisters, but this is beyond a single community. We must collectively declare that violence against women is not to be tolerated in any form and it must end.
While ongoing programs and awareness building is important, the responsibility for healing our communities from violence against women lies with all of us. On December 6, 2016, 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.
Merci – Thank you – Marsee
M. Margaret Froh
Métis Nation of Ontario
Published on: December 6, 2016