December 6 was Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and the country’s Aboriginal groups worked to draw attention to the fact that an inordinate amount of that violence occurs against indigenous women.
The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) has catalogued nearly 600 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women nationwide, half of them since the year 2000, the group said in a release. The group’s Sisters In Spirit initiative lends support to Aboriginal families and communities who have been affected by violence and are committed to end violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
Authorities’ responses are often disturbingly dismissive.
Families reporting a disappearance are often told to wait and see if the woman comes home, that she may have left on her own.
“NWAC is part of the greater movement to end violence against women,” the group said in a release. “When we think about violence, however, many Canadians often forget that it has an Aboriginal face. Aboriginal women are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence and eight times more likely to be victims of spousal homicide than non-Aboriginal women.”
Other Native groups also got on board to call for more thorough investigation into the disappearances and deaths.
"The Assembly of First Nations is committed to working together with the federal, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous and women's groups and organizations to develop a national action plan, focused on prevention, to end violence against all women in Canada," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. "Ensuring collaboration with First Nations and the victims of violence must be a priority for the federal government and all Canadians. This includes ensuring support for initiatives that work for our people, like Sisters in Spirit and other community-based efforts."