by Adrian Alleyne
Family member, missing, never to be heard from again. The police have no leads and no answers to give you.
This is no fictional storyline. As hard as it is to imagine, for many people across Canada and Saskatchewan this is a reality.
One of these people is Gwenda Yuzicappi of Standing Buffalo First Nations. In July 2005 her daughter Amber went missing in Fort Qu’Appelle. “As each day passed I continued to think about her. I thought, what happened?” said Yuzicappi.
There is now a class at the University of Regina, and a planned conference will hopefully shed some light on the issue of missing women.
The women’s studies class offered focuses on missing First Nations women. Bridget Keating, a research assistant involved with the program, believes it’s an important first step for the university.
“(There’s) a lot of white privilege at the university, and it helps to bring a concrete issue into the classroom, it breaks down stereotypes,” she said.
The conference, “Missing Women: Decolonization, Third Wave Feminisms and Indigenous People of Canada and Mexico,” will take place in August. This conference hopes to educate the community on the issues facing Indigenous women, so that more can be done for the situation.
Young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence, according to a Canadian government statistic.
As serious as this issue is, it has largely gone unnoticed by the public, at least until recently. Following the release of a 2004 Amnesty International report called “Stolen Sisters”, the Native Women’s Association of Canada began the Sisters in Spirit campaign. The goal of the campaign is to bring awareness to the community and reduce the risks that First Nations women face.
All too often people see or hear about the drugs, and homelessness in First Nations communities, and they are quick to judge. But ultimately we must “look at historical links to see what bought them to these conditions” Keating said.
She also notes that we often hear the history from a colonial point of view, but what about the First Nations view?
There has been progress though. Brent Shannon of the Cold Case Division for the Regina Police service says that there has been an effort to expand the lines of communication. There has also been a provincial website constructed for the sole purpose of announcing missing persons.
The goal is to keep the lines of communication open in the community, because as Shannon says “lack of communication leads to a lack of understanding.”
(Image courtesy of Sisters in Spirit)