Across Canada tomorrow there are multiple vigils being held on behalf of Sisters in Spirit, a national campaign to honour the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The Sisters in Spirit campaign was initially funded by Status of Women in order to address violence against Aboriginal women and girls, but expanded to include murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls. Federal funding for the Sisters in Spirit campaign ended in 2010.
In 1988, a Manitoba provincial inquiry (“the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry”) examined the death of Helen Betty Osborne and found that her murder was clearly motivated by racism, that the manner in which the police pursued their investigation was also motivated by racism, and that the refusal of community members to participate in the police investigation was due to the fact that Helen Betty Osborne was an Aboriginal woman.
In 2012, the British Columbia government refused to provide funding for aboriginal women’s groups to participate in the provincial inquiry into missing and murdered women on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. At issue before the inquiry are the now-familiar themes of sexism, racism, and classism within our policing bodies, and how those stereotypes perpetuate violence against our sisters.
Aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence three-and-a-half times higher than non-Aboriginal women. Young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence. Yet we are no better at our collective policing of women’s safety than we were in the times of Helen Betty Osborne. What are YOU doing to end violence against indigenous women in Canada?
Find your Sisters in Spirit event here