Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA People
Alberta is home to several First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, and is held to account by numbered treaties, the largest territories of which are Treaty 6, 7, and 8. Alberta is also home to Métis Nations in regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The resiliency of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people is rooted deeply in culture, ancestry, and strength.
In the historical and ongoing process of colonization, Indigenous people were dehumanized. Colonialism and its impacts have lasted for generations in Canada and sexual violence has been used as a tool of colonial dominance, power, and control.
Colonists did not create sexual violence, but they have used it as a weapon to exert power and control over populations for centuries. Colonialism and sexual violence have similar roots – oppressive attitudes and beliefs. The same beliefs that justify the use of abusive behaviours are the ones that underpin colonial entitlement to take over the land and to undermine Indigenous ways of life.
European colonists settled on Turtle Island2 with ideas of civilization and expansion. Some of the tools they used to accomplish these goals were Residential Schools, the foster care system, and the Indian Act. These all have greatly impacted First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people and their cultures. Sexual assault and abuse, especially against Indigenous children, occurred in all of these systems and continues to this day.
Traditionally, Indigenous women have been honoured as equals and seen as sacred, holding positions of leadership and influence. Colonial notions which positioned women as ‘less than’ dramatically disrupted Indigenous social structures, the impacts of which persist to this day. The continued dehumanization and objectification of Indigenous women in particular, has led to disproportionally high rates of sexual violence.
- More than one in five young Indigenous women are sexually assaulted in Canada.3
- Indigenous women are more likely to experience multiple forms of violence, including sexual violence, as well as the most severe forms that result in serious physical injury and homicide.4
No one knows for sure how many Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in Canada. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) sought to acknowledge and honour the memory of all Indigenous women and girls—including Indigenous people who are Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, transgender, queer, or non-binary, and those with disabilities or special needs—who are missing or who have lost their lives to violence.
The report released by the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, Reclaiming Power and Place, points to persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses as the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.5
The number of MMIWG was estimated to be 1,200 (for the years between 1980 and 2012) in the RCMP’s 2014 National Overview.6 Because of difficulties with the data behind the statistics, definitions and identification, and errors in reporting, the real number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is likely much higher.7 The general consensus is that the numbers are staggering.
Reclaiming Power and Place, along with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report prepared both Calls to Justice, and Calls to Action respectively, that we can follow. These calls ask us to reflect on, and to call out attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that harm others, specifically Indigenous People. Reconciliation begins internally, then moves outward. We all have the responsibility to educate ourselves and others, tell the hard truths about Canada’s history, and change the trajectory of our country.