The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is calling for all Canadians to help end violence against Aboriginal women.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada was commemorated on Dec. 6.
“On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada, ONWA calls on all Canadians to take a stand against the pervasive levels of violence that Aboriginal women and girls experience on a daily basis,” said Betty Kennedy, ONWA’s executive director. “We should use today as a catalyst for concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against Aboriginal women and girls so that together, we as Canadians can break the cycle of violence.”
Aboriginal women and girls experience violence at exponentially higher rates than non-Aboriginal women, with eight out of 10 Aboriginal women having experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. There are also more than 600 Aboriginal women who are currently missing or have been murdered in Canada.
The names of 66 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls from northwestern Ontario were were read aloud to honour their lives during an Oct. 4 Sisters in Spirit vigil in Thunder Bay.
“Those are the ones that are documented that have come forward in the general area, but we also want to stress that there are a large number of cases that go unreported,” said Maryanne Matthews, ONWA’s media and communications officer. “Even (with the national) number of 600 that we have, we know the number in reality is much higher than that. Which is another reason why a national inquiry is so important.”
ONWA has been calling on all Canadians to support the call for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
“There is such limited research in that area and there is not enough funding for Aboriginal organizations to form that research ourselves,” Matthews said. “We’re hoping that an inquiry can help shed more light into the reality of the situation and find out just how severe the problem is.”
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition in support of a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women, which was originally scheduled to be delivered to the federal government in October but was extended to early December due to requests from the community for more time to submit additional signatures.
“Our hearts are full as we remember our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and friends who have been lost to violence,” said Michèle Audette, NWAC’s president. “We call on the federal government to support families and communities, Aboriginal leadership, allies and the premiers who have voiced the need for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.”
NWAC also encouraged Canadians to write their local leaders to support the call for a national public inquiry as well as reach out and support families and communities that have lost loved ones to violence.
“It (national public inquiry) is something that would be a crucial step towards understanding why violence against Aboriginal women is so pervasive, why there are so many missing and murdered Aboriginal women and to start the process to develop solutions into that problem,” Matthews said.
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