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No More Stolen Sisters

    December 12, 2011

    A new report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women offers no real solutions to the widespread threats to the lives of Indigenous women in Canada.

    Last March, the Committee issued an interim report that called for a comprehensive, strategic and coordinated approach to end the vastly disproportionate rates of violence against Indigenous women. The final report tabled in Parliament today drops the call for a comprehensive response and instead focuses primarily on government initiatives that are already underway.

    Although the report discusses the housing crisis plaguing many Indigenous communities, the severe shortage of emergency shelters for Indigenous women, and the large numbers of Indigenous children being placed in foster care, the report offers no recommendations for countering these critical obstacles to Indigenous women escaping violence.

    The scale and severity of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls requires a corresponding commitment by government to ensuring their safety. Amnesty International has long called for a comprehensive, coordinated national plan of action to address gaps in current policies, programs and services; involve Indigenous women’s organizations in identifying the necessary solutions; and ensure accountability in their delivery.

      By Jacqueline Hansen, Amnesty International's Major Campaigns and Women's Human Rights Campaigner.

    Holly Jarrett is the grassroots activist behind the “Am I Next?” viral social media campaign. Originally from Labrador and now based in Ontario, she has worked with national Aboriginal organizations, including Inuit organizations, since 1991, and has been a grassroots organizer since 1998. Holly’s cousin, Loretta Saunders, was murdered in Halifax earlier this year. Follow the Am I Next? campaign on Facebook. 

      By Jacqueline Hansen, Amnesty International's Major Campaigns and Women's Human Rights Campaigner.

    Join Amnesty International at a Red Dress concert to raise awareness of our Stolen Sisters campaign. 

    With the 2016 release of her album Holding Patterns the Red Dress single and video, and Amanda Rheaume continues her history of advocating change through her work – and this time, it’s personal. 

    Red Dress was recorded to honour the over 1,180 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. 

    The Centre’s “Red Dress Concert” will be an expression of community solidarity and awareness-raising for this ongoing national tragedy. 

    Check out the Red Dress Single and Video here: https://youtu.be/AeoJWh0Ujr4

    Tickets are $23 (including all taxes)

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    On Tuesday morning Bridget Tolley did what no mother wants to do—search for her missing daughter. Laura Spence and her friend Nicole Whiteduck were last seen on Sunday morning in Kitigan Zibi, a community north of Ottawa.

    Tolley is the co-founder of the grassroots organization Families of Sisters in Spirit—one of Amnesty International’s key partners in the Stolen Sisters campaign to end violence against Indigenous women in Canada. She provides support to Indigenous families across Canada whose daughters, sisters, mothers, and aunties have gone missing or been murdered. And while she understands very well the pain of losing a loved one—her mother was killed in 2001 by a police cruiser—until this week she had not experienced what many of the families she works with have gone through when a loved one vanishes.

    Join us on Parliament Hill for the 6th Annual Families of Sisters in Spirit Vigil to honour the memory of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. 

    Details about other events and vigils in Ottawa on October 4th will be posted as more information becomes available. 

     

    OTTAWA - With federal political parties preparing for an election year, Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) are calling on Canadians to help make ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls a priority for all politicians. Our organizations will be working with women’s organizations and other allies across Canada to ensure that all parties make tangible commitments to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in the upcoming election.

    Recently released RCMP statistics report the murder of 1017 Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, with more than 100 others remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for unknown reasons.

    NWAC President Michèle Audette told a press conference on Parliament Hill today. “Each woman was somebody. She was also somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, or friend and every one of them deserved to be safe from violence. They deserve more from our Government than excuses and a patchwork of underfunded and inadequate programs and services. We need solutions and actions that will make a difference in women’s lives.”

    Gender, Indigenous rights, and energy development in northeast British Columbia, Canada

    Join Amnesty International's campaign to make sure the safety and wellness of Indigenous women and girls in northeast BC, Canada, an area with massive hydroelectric, oil, gas, and coal projects, is not #OutofSightOutofMind! 

    On Friday, February 26th, at 7:30 p.m. in Room B-112 of Okanagan College, 1000 KLO Road, Amnesty International's Kelowna group presents "Highway of Tears"- a documentary film about the disappearances of at least 40 young women, mostly aboriginal, since the 1960s on Highway 16 in northern B.C.  A recent RCMP special investigation linked DNA from one of the missing women to a deceased American criminal.  The cases reveal sweeping crimes: kidnapping, rape, torture, murder and the disposal of human bodies.  The women have been victims not only of murderous predators but also of a pervasive systemic racism that has kept them marginalized on impoverished reservations.  First Nations leaders and activists contend that there has been little interest in further investigating the crimes and in apprehending their killers.  Admission is by donation.  More information at 250-769-4740.

    If you are an Indigenous woman or girl in Canada—whether you live on reserve or in an urban area, regardless of your age or socio-economic status—the simple fact that you are an Indigenous woman or girl means that you are at least 3 times more likely to experience violence, and at least 6 times more likely to be murdered than any other woman or girl in Canada. This violence is a national human rights crisis and it must stop.

    Why are the rates of violence so high?

    Racist and sexist stereotypes lead perpetrators to believe that they can get away with committing acts of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    The many legacies of colonialism increase the risk of experiencing violence—from impoverishment to the lasting harm from residential schools to the disempowerment of Indigenous women and girls in their own communities.

    Decades of government and law enforcement inaction to end the violence.

    Dr. Cindy Blackstock, a member of the Gitxan Nation, is a prominent researcher and advocate for the rights of children. As Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Cindy has brought a landmark discrimination case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to challenge the federal government’s chronic underfunding of children’s services on First Nations reserves and for First Nations children in the Yukon. The closing arguments in that hearing will take place October 20-24 and will be webcast live at fnwitness.ca.

    We spoke with Cindy as part of a series of conversation with Indigenous advocates and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of Amnesty International’s report Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada.

    There is not one cause of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and likewise, there is not one single solution. A comprehensive, coordinated, well resourced national response, developed with Indigenous women and girls, is needed to end the violence. 

    What solutions are needed to stop the violence?

    A comprehensive national response to end violence against Indigenous women and girls should include:

    A national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women focused on exposing the nature of this violence and on ensuring government and police accountability for an effective and coordinated response.

    A national action plan to end violence against women which addresses the root causes of violence and identifies holistic, culturally-appropriate ways in which to prevent violence and to support those impacted by violence.

    All governments have a responsibility to do everything in their power to prevent violence against women. This includes provincial and territorial governments as well as municipalities. It also includes Indigenous governments and institutions such as Band Councils. All have a shared responsibility to be part of the solution to ending violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    However, the federal government has a particular responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous women and girls.

    Here are some of the reasons why:

    Amnesty International is in the process of conducting research into the human rights impacts of large-scale natural resource development in northeastern British Columbia, with a particular focus on the region’s urban centre, Fort St. John. Part of this research focuses on the human rights impacts on women and girls, and particularly Indigenous women and girls.

    Why? Because every year women from Fort St. John travel to Ottawa with a banner listing the missing and murdered women and girls in their community—and every year the banner includes more names. And because, as a wide range of people and organizations from this region have pointed out, environmental assessments and other decision-making processes around large-scale natural resource development projects need to pay more attention to their impact on people's lives and the social fabric of the communities they live in.

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