Let’s be real. Canada will never have a truthful inquiry into missing and murdered women. I really think we should save our breath and stop asking. However, that doesn’t mean that I think that we should give up. What we need is a different approach. What we need is for Indigenous people to conduct the inquiry and promote it on the international level. Likely, in terms of funding, it’s going to be the grassroots who gets this done. It’s going to take a lot of heart, work, volunteer hours and our own money. OR we could work WITH Canada equally on an inquiry, or leave it up to a third party. But we cannot and must not allow Canada to conduct an inquiry alone.
I owe you a better explanation of what I mean. So let’s begin by asking the right question. Why won’t Canada ever have a truthful inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women? The reasons are (in no particular order):
Reason # 1 – It costs money. If an inquiry were to be done, the federal government would look for every possible way to cut costs thereby undermining the inquiry’s mandate to begin with.
Reason # 2 – The Canadian nation-state would be implicated as the root of the problem. Indigenous women are simultaneously over criminalized and under protected by law enforcement. Colonialism, racism, sexism and classism are why there are so many missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Essentially, Canada would be investigating itself for horrendous human rights violations.
Indigenous women are the most marginalized group in the country because….
1) Colonialism. Our nationhood is not respected (or even understood) and our lands are coveted and violated by industry and occupation. Indigenous people are viewed as “in the way” of progress – that attitude contributes toward dehumanization.
2) Racism. As Andrea Smith says, Indigenous bodies are viewed as inherently rapeable because they are not viewed as pure (white), and so they cannot be violated. Raping or murdering an Indigenous woman is not viewed as a crime in the same way it would be viewed for a white woman.
Murdered Indigenous women who are sex workers, homeless or addicts are viewed as worthless. Every single Indigenous woman is a human being regardless of what she does for a living or the way that she lives her life. Of course, not all Indigenous women are sex workers, homeless or addicts but those stereotypes exist and so the effects of the dehumanization of those groups are extended to all Indigenous women. This should be an added motivation for Indigenous feminists and communities to be inclusive when discussing the rights for all. Everyone matters.
3) Patriarchy. Women’s voices, especially racialized women’s voices are not being heard or represented in the mainstream because men still have too much power and influence. The silence allows it to continue. To be clear, even Indigenous men are killing Indigenous women. This is because Canadian society has made it clear that Indigenous women are not being assigned the same value as other women in Canada. This lateral violence in our communities must stop. It is not our way. Patriarchy is not our way. In acts of decolonization, we must as Indigenous women take our place as leaders in our communities.
4) Classism. Women who are poor are more vulnerable and more likely to disappear without a trace but also – the police do NOT care about the poor. Just look at the victims of the Pickton case for example – the RCMP was negligent because Pickton preyed on poor women. If Pickton preyed on affluent white women, instead of poor racialized women, everyone in Canada would know about how horrific his crimes were.
Other Points to take into Consideration
An examination of the relationship between the current Federal administration and First Nations people is important here. Do you you think the current Federal administration would view a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women as advantageous to them politically or economically advantageous for Canada? No. Do you think that they would agree to do anything that would not benefit them politically? No. A greater examination of the relationship between the Canadian nation-state and Indigenous peoples is needed here.
I submit that not only does Canada not view an inquiry as advantageous to Canada but the Canadian nation-state actually benefits from a depleted Indigenous population. With less Indigenous resistance to industrial projects, Canadians (or more correctly, oil companies) will be able to reap the economic benefits from resource developments without opposition. Also, the Federal government will have less expenses in the Aboriginal Affairs Department and the Provincial governments can continue benefitting from natural resource development completely unfettered.
If Indigenous peoples were to become either majorly depopulated or surrender their nationhood and right to the land – the crown would seek to inherit trillions of dollars worth of land and resources. Much of the land mass people refer to as ‘Canada’ is stolen land. The Canadian nation-state exists because of institutionalized and structural racism, dispossession of Indigenous territories, forced relocations, genocidal scalping laws, forced sexual sterilization, residential schools, the sixties scoop and many other crimes against our people. It breaks my heart to say but Canadians benefit economically from the deaths of Indigenous peoples and the dismantling of Indigenous nations.
We ALL need to remember that treaties with First Nations are the foundation of Canada – not confederation, not the patriation of the constitution – but treaties. Canada only exists because of the treaties. The treaties state that we are to SHARE the land and not interfere with each other. We are supposed to be friends.
As Indigenous peoples, we have a right to our land, economies, self-determination, languages and cultures. We have the right to exist – and yet the federal government keeps passing legislation threatening our nations. So, no – I have no faith in Canada conducting an honest inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. If an inquiry is done, it will be done without examining the systemic causes of the deaths of our women.
Why the attack on Indigenous women? As the Cheyenne Proverb says, “A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors nor how strong their weapons.”