Dear readers, I’m back! I never intended such a long delay but life happens and I have not even taken time to share my distractions.
I started my project of reading and summarizing the MMIWG report last June shortly after its release. Please see posting in June, July and November 2019. I am now in the middle of section 2, Confronting Oppression. Chapters 5 and 6 spoke about Right to Culture and Health, and here after long delay is Chapter 7: Right to Security.
We are reminded that international conventions look at security as being both physical and social. Seven essential dimensions include economic, health, personal, political, food, environment, and community. Analysis of lack of safety for Indigenous women happens within the four Pathways to Violence identified earlier.
(1) Inter-generational Trauma and Interpersonal Violence (p.508):
The denial and normalization of interpersonal violence in the lives of Indigenous women are forms of colonial control. One of the hallmarks of colonial societies is an extraordinary effort to conceal the truth.
Violations of security and safety within the residential school system had the long term negative effect of modelling abuse while removing cultural practices that would have offered other ways of relating. Because of inadequate supports to leave violent relationships, women often use silence as self-protection.
(2) Social and Economic Marginalization (p.519):
First Nations, Metis, and Inuit experience higher levels of economic poverty than non-Indigenous people in Canada. The Metis faced unique challenges as they lived in a jurisdictional vacuum for almost 100 years from 1885 to constitutional recognition in 1982. Clear data is lacking for how lack of government responsibility contributed to issues affecting their people.
Generally, poverty contributes to danger by lack of affordable and accessible housing. Poverty may also lead some people to drugs or alcohol to cope.
Poverty creates barriers to education, training, and employment, the very tools that are protective factors against by victimized. Residential schools created a distrust for schooling.
Lack of supportive infrastructure often impedes those trying to escape violence. Many youth run away from abuse in foster home to more dangerous situations where completing high school or finding employment is impossible. A poignant example is Tina Fontaine of Winnipeg.
Many recommendations have been developed over the years but tend to be made by separate agencies in isolation from one another and legislated separately between provincial and federal governments, with funding conflicts and inconsistent evaluation of programs and services.
This inequality in the provision of service violates human and Indigenous rights and contributes to systemic violence. As well, the practices of the Canadian state have failed to adequately recognize, respect, and make space for the inherent right of Indigenous self-government and self-determination.
(3) Lack of Will and Insufficient Institutional Responses (p.575):
Many barriers limit access to safety services. For example, many shelters will not accept clients in active addiction; many programs have short term funding; low pay is associated with staff turnover; assessment tools are inadequate; and some organizations favor an abolitionist approach over harm reduction.
Particular attention was paid to resource extraction projects (mining, oil and gas) which can exacerbate the problem of violence with transient and temporary workers who have no attachment to the community, shift work which can put a strain of family relationships, increasing availability of drugs which can lead to addictions and trauma, and economic insecurity which can drive inflation and housing shortages. It was noted that some women and girls are drawn into sex work in such hyper-masculine and hyper-sexualized work environments where women do not have equitable access to economic benefits.
(Personal aside: This is one area the province of Alberta is tackling. A working group was launched March 5,2020, to advise the government on how to respond to calls for justice. Alberta Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson stated he will focus first on the resource industry and how to increase safety for Indigenous women in work camps.)
(4) Denying Agency and Expertise in Restoring Safety (p.595):
We remember the strength, courage, and creativity of those who have died, acknowledge our great loss, and understand our loved were not at fault for their own victimization.
Indigenous women are looking beyond the colonial system to craft their own solutions to poverty and homelessness. Access to safe and affordable housing is an integral first step.
Colonial policies which violate the rights of Indigenous women are tools of genocide. Social and economic marginalization increases the risk of violence and forces many to meet their survival needs through the sex trade.
Safety includes upholding social, economic, political, cultural, health, and justice rights. Consistent livable income is necessary. Employment opportunities and services are urgently needed.