The Silenced Women
Out of sight, out of Harper’s mind
Author: Shayla Sayer-Brabant
The death of fifteen-year-old Tina Fontaine has caused a national issue to come to light. The amount of cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada is truly astonishing. However, despite these numbers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to call an inquiry into the deaths of these women. Personally speaking, I feel that our prime minister is not treating this issue with the respect it deserves. Tina Fontaine’s body was found around 1:30 pm in the Red River in Winnipeg. Harper has waived off the need for a national inquiry because, according to him, his government needs to treat the death of this fifteen-year-old First Nations youth as a crime, rather than a “sociological phenomenon.” Many people, including myself, believe Harper would much rather not address the deaths of Tina Fontaine, and approximately 1,200 other cases of murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.
According to Justice Minister Peter MacKay, the “government is apparently addressing the issue through Aboriginal justice programs and a national DNA missing persons index.”
Even though this is good, more action needs to be taken.
Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has a much firmer grasp on how disturbing of an issue the cases of missing and murdered First Nations women are. Trudeau truly excels in the areas that Harper lacks. Trudeau is able to see that even though the death of Tina Fontaine is a devastating, heart wrenching crime, it is also part of a pattern that has been continuing for years. Like Justin Trudeau, I fully believe that this issue needs to be addressed by a national inquiry. Countless numbers of people are confused by Harper’s refusal to call an inquiry. This inquiry would not be a solution in itself, but rather a step for greater government action in the years to come. An inquiry would possibly take years, and it could get messy, but the pros outweigh the cons. An Indigenous woman is five times more likely than her non-Aboriginal counterpart to meet a violent death at the hands of another person, according to a recent RCMP report.
This inevitable inquiry might possibly bring up instances where First Nations women were treated differently by authorities. However, this is something that needs to be addressed immediately. Cases where our Aboriginal women were obviously mistreated need to be exposed, rather than covered up. Families of the missing Aboriginal women, authorities such as child welfare authorities and the police would be called as potential witnesses. Thanks to social media, an online campaign has started to try to renew the pressure on Harper’s government to call a national inquiry. Aboriginal women are spreading awareness by posting a picture of oneself on social media with a sign that asks a very important question: “Am I next?”
How many more families have to be put through the same grief that Tina Fontaine’s, and 1,200 other families, have been put through?