Leilan Wong – On Aboriginal Women’s Rights in Canada

In light of the recent news regarding sexual violence and mistreatment of Aboriginal women by provincial police in Quebec, I believe it is important that women confront the inequality Aboriginal women face not only across Canada, but in our own communities. First, I would like to start by acknowledging that there are different forms and perspectives on feminism, and that is okay. But I am frustrated. We cannot apply a hierarchy to pain and suffering, but we must realize that for Aboriginal women in Canada, the issue of inequality concerns their safety, and their very lives.  Is life not a priority?  Why do I only hear about issues of female university professors wage gaps? Let’s talk about what is happening in our country, in our very province, and in our very city where women, because of their race, fear for their lives. The majority of Aboriginal  women, faced with systemic racism and marginalization, are not even afforded the opportunity to go to university! Why are we not talking about this? A 2014 RCMP report suggest that there are 1,200 cases of either homicide or unsolved cases of missing Aboriginal women. Taking into account the reports of police sexual mistreatment of Aboriginal women, let me suggest that these numbers are low and do not represent the true number of women who have been victims of sex crimes. Also, an Amnesty International report reveals that “70 percent of all violent crimes against Indigenous people in the U.S. – and 90 percent of sexual assaults – are reported to be carried out by non-Indigenous people”.  Since Aboriginal people are the victims of these crimes, not the perpetrators, it is crucial that we do not make this an “Aboriginal issue” and step down from talking about it because we see it is not our place.  It is Non-Aboriginal people that Aboriginal women fear.

Therefore, it is everyone’s discussion when women do not have the economic status or networking to make their voices heard. We need to stand up and talk about the issues of women who face multiple oppressions, and recognize what is happening in our own backyards. Every woman’s struggle is important, but safety of lives due to engrained racism must come before issues experienced by a very privileged demographic.  Anita Olsen Harper asks what is ultimately one of the most important questions today, “Does the public think that these “uncomfortable” issues will perhaps just somehow “go away?”” They will not go away unless women take a stand to protect the safety of other women, instead of falling “comfortably and passively” into the media’s trend of silence.   Women, let us realize that there are life threatening issues (the most important human right) in our midst.

Here is a related video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUt6sxF2s2U


For those who would like to learn more about Aboriginal women and their fight against oppression, the UBC Women’s Centre will be screening the film Highway of Tears later this month.