May 5th is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry began in 2015 and concluded with a final report on June 3, 2019. In 2021, the federal government released a National Action Plan and the provincial government tabled our own “A Path Forward: Priorities and Early Strategies for B.C.”
I was honoured to provide the BC Green Party response to Minister Murray Rankin’s Ministerial Statement.
Thank you to the Minister of Indigenous Relations, to the member for Vancouver-Langara for your thoughtful comments on today.
Today is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Red Dress Day. I wish I could stand here and read into the record all the names of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples.
To the matriarchs, the future matriarchs, my grandmother, mother, aunties, sisters, cousins, nieces, to my daughter Ella, I love you, and I raise my hands to you for your power and your strength.
It’s Mother’s Day weekend. This weekend there will be too many members of our families who will not be with us. There are going it be too many empty seats around the table, too many candles burning solemnly on the mantle. I wish I could say to our relatives that their Crown governments have been inspired to ensure that every case is investigated and solved, that this institution is sparing no resources to find the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice. I can’t. We can’t.
When I hear that the transformation of policing services is too expensive or too difficult, that governments don’t like expensive or difficult, it comes from a more privileged reality than that of the families of the missing and murdered. As we become more comfortable acknowledging our inadequate and fragmented police services, built on institutionalized racism, stigma and discrimination, where there is a distinctly lesser value placed on the life of Indigenous women, where we hear that Indigenous women in communities are both underserved by police and overrepresented in our justice system, transformation is not only necessary, but there is no other choice than to change this culture.
I read the headline this morning. “‘Shocking and shameful’: for the first time, Indigenous women make up half the female population in Canada’s federal prisons.” Let’s put that into context. One out of every 20 women in Canada is Indigenous.
When I sat on that Police Act committee, I held close in my heart the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people who died because our police services, structures and institutions made them vulnerable to exploitation and death. We must do better than we have. We must do better than the national action plan, much better than our meager commitment in A Path Forward: Priorities and Early Strategies for B.C. Today we must do better than perform for those who are missing or murdered.
I hope that just as we paused for a moment of silence on the Day of Mourning for injured and killed workers, we do the same for our sisters. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.