1 Introduction

Brenda Anderson

Brenda Anderson

In 2008, a Regina collective of academics, community workers, spiritual leaders, and family members held a conference titled “Missing Women: Decolonization, Third Wave Feminisms and Indigenous People of Canada and Mexico.” The proceedings and reflections were subsequently published as Torn from our Midst: Voices of Grief, Healing and Action from the Missing Indigenous Women Conference, 2008. Ten years have passed to our decision to create a second edition that not only provides updated and new material but is also a retrospective of what, if anything, has changed in the national and global context of violence against Indigenous women. This edition offers a decade-long snapshot of the national timeline of Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationships within which the Canadian National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was conducted. We are situated at a critical moment in history, a liminal door frame from which we gaze back at the interminable cries for justice and forward to the implementation of the 231 Calls to Justice from the commissioners of the 2019 MMIWG inquiry. Laying our Canadian stories alongside the global phenomenon of femicide[1] in other colonized countries such as Mexico and Guatemala, this book underscores the common and interlocking effects of racism and sexism on Indigenous women. The first report from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability confirms that the term femicide is every bit as applicable to Canada, where being female and being an Indigenous female makes you vulnerable to violence. “Indigenous women and girls were overrepresented as victims, comprising about five percent of the population in Canada, but 36 percent of those women and girls . . . were killed by violence” (#CallItFemicide, 7). This book provides testimony and evidence that sexualized and racialized violence is not only a product of colonization but continues to be used as a deliberate tool of colonization[2].

The process of redressing violence against Indigenous women begins with a two-pronged approach to education and relationship-building. Such an approach was affirmed by the 300 participants of the 2008 conference and, a decade later, remains the framework of the National Inquiry. In this book, you find everything from personal stories to historic narratives to theoretical positionings to concrete political and public policy changes. In this way, we implore all Canadians to actively engage in knowledgeably redressing the vulnerability of brown-skinned women.

The rapidity of new developments, new stories, or new controversies on MMIWG is not what we can address specifically through the medium of a fixed book. What we can offer, and what we think is important, is the evolutionary, historic meta-narrative of the national discourse within which the specifics arise. Whether it is the documentation and analysis of violence against Indigenous women in northern Saskatchewan or the use of the word femicide rather than genocide[3] in classrooms, the authors are commenting on the issues as they relate to the time of writing. What readers have, then, is a re-creation of the conversation within the framework of a decade or more. The hope of the editing team is that, by lending a decade-long retrospective, one that includes links to the global as well as the national context, we may contribute to the education and growing will of a nation to reconcile its past by committing to a new and safer future. And ultimately, throughout the book runs our desire to make our research matter, done in memory of those torn from our midst and in support of remaining family members.

Our editing team includes women who identify as Indigenous and women who identify as being of white settler descent. We note how our positionality affects our responses to current events, thereby modeling the need for all voices to be included at the table. Without all perspectives, we cannot fully redress colonialism nor hope to decolonize our hearts and institutions. Our hopes for the future reflect our status as women who actively work to eliminate all forms of violence against Indigenous women.

My Hope, Shauneen Pete

I am from Little Pine First Nation in Treaty 6 territory. I am the Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator in Indigenous Education at University of Victoria. I was a full professor in the Faculty of Education and served as the Executive Lead: Indigenization at the University of Regina. I was also the Interim President and Vice-President (Academic) at First Nations University of Canada. My research supports the promotion of Indigenization in higher education.

During the closing of the 2008 conference, my youngest daughter Tara, who was 14 at the time, asked to share some of her reflections on the speakers. She called on all of us adults to help Indigenous girls to know security from violence. Her plea resonated deeply in all of us that day. As a survivor myself, as someone who has actively worked to expose patriarchal violence in its many forms (colonization, heteronormativity, sexism, etc.) and as a single mother who attempts to shield my own children from violence, I’ve taken seriously the issues of violence. It became a topic of study in my undergraduate teaching, my informal writing for REZX magazine, and for a video blog for REZX TV. I believe we have a responsibility to use our agency to expose violence, and to do so in a variety of ways to reach a larger audience. Our hope is that this revised edition will serve that purpose.

My Hope, Carrie Bourassa

Building on Dr. Pete’s hope for the future, I too remember Tara’s powerful words. I feel that young women have much to say to us, and we, in turn, much to learn. The Elders and Knowledge Keepers tell us that children are gifts from Creator and are here to teach us. I truly believe this. I have been blessed with two amazing daughters who teach me every day. One is twenty and one is nine and the lessons I receive from each are profoundly different, yet each are vital to my learning and healing journey. Violence became a norm for me growing up and, I think, for many Métis, First Nations, and Inuit families. There are reasons for this, of course, which this collection deftly unpacks. It is, however, important to note that colonization affects First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities in vastly different ways and there is purpose, intent behind it. Yet we are still here, and while we may still be struggling with inter-generational trauma, disease, addictions—we are purposely here. We are resilient, strong, and our generations are behind us and ahead of us. We are still here.

My Hope, Brenda Anderson

Anyone who puts pen to paper understands the potential agony of reading one’s writing from over a decade ago. For me, reading the original introduction to Torn from Our Midst shows a shift in my own thinking; it also represents an important national shift in the conversation about MMIWG. As an ally, it has never been my intention to speak for or on behalf of Indigenous women. In the original introduction, I emphasised two mantras that continue to serve me well: ‘to make space for things to happen,’ and to ‘learn how to stand alongside.’ Yet, it is painfully evident to me that, in that introduction, I continued to unconsciously imagine my readers to be largely a non-Indigenous community. And why wouldn’t I? When I had sought out very few Indigenous professional colleagues or friends, when I had yet to participate in many ceremonial opportunities, when my institution was just barely beginning to understand, let alone acknowledge the ways in which we perpetuate colonialist structures, systems, and ideologies. I was largely operating from a protected ghetto of privilege. The fact that our original editing team was comprised entirely of non-Indigenous researchers speaks volumes, as does the fact that our current team has the wisdom from Shauneen and Carrie to help us see what privilege keeps from us. This slow process of decolonization is being replicated nation wide.

Ten years ago, I wrote of that chilling moment in Fort Qu’Appelle when, after seeing what seemed like the hundredth poster of a missing Indigenous woman, this one asking for help in locating Amber Redman[4], it finally dawned on me that there was a profound dissonance between how I understood Canada and what was really happening. At that time, I did know I had the pleasure of white privilege; on another level, I was still learning how deeply my assumptions are grounded in the very fabric of colonialist privilege. If truth be told, it continues to be my privilege to decide whether, or when, or how to acknowledge the crisis of MMIWG; this privilege is not extended to those who live that ‘high-risk lifestyle’ of being an Indigenous woman. Accepting this uncomfortable reality is the first step towards decolonization and reconciliation. To those who are non-Indigenous and are reading this book, I see this as a first stage before concrete change that will keep Indigenous women safe can occur. The authors in this book bring that awareness forward.

As I write this, I have just watched a white ally speak during a live feed of the National Inquiry commissioners discussing their findings. The audience member described the absolute silence on Indigenous history and colonialism that he experienced throughout his childhood and right through his post-secondary education. He thanked the commissioners for the work that was transforming his life and expressed the hope that he could change certain practices in his field. Head Commissioner Marion Buller thanked him by responding, “Canada will be a great country as long as it has an open mind, an open heart, and an open spirit.”

I believe those from white settler backgrounds have a key role to play as allies, but that role is not so much one of speaking as it is of listening and then acting upon what we hear. In a university course I teach on MMIWG in the Global Context, a student from a white settler background commented on how grateful she was that she lived in Canada where we could trust our police force. She said this after watching the film Senorita Extraviada which details investigations into women disappearing from maquiladoras (sweatshops) in Ciudad Juarez. The student’s comment raised numerous responses from Indigenous students in the classroom who could give detailed accounts of being racially profiled by police simply for walking down the street, while others commented on how terrified they were of the police. In that exchange, it was absolutely clear how imperative it is for allies and Indigenous people to address this issue collaboratively. Non-Indigenous Canadians have not had to remove the very thick blinders put on them since birth, and this has resulted in a framework of genocide of Indigenous peoples, customs, experiences, and spirit. Through these types of conversations that teach and build relationships, allies will be amazed for years to come at the layers of assumptions and ignorance that have built up because our systems—governments, media, education, healthcare, etc.—chose to look away, or did not even know what to look at. Just as the young white student listened carefully and learned from that dissonant moment, I look forward to uncovering more of my colonialist assumptions so that when I read this book ten years from now, I will see yet again what I have missed so far. I will seek that open mind, heart, and spirit of hope for transformation that Indigenous women so justly deserve. I would add a further question to non-Indigenous Canadians: what insights or gifts are we resisting when we ignore the rich teachings from Indigenous Peoples in Canada? I want to thank the Indigenous Elders and Knowledge-Keepers and my friends and colleagues who generously gave me guidance and celebrate the hope that comes from their leadership and the many Indigenous teachings on relationships, the environment, and the spiritual that they have shared with me. Miigwich.

Theorising Our Collective National Trauma

Whether we recognize it or not, all Canadians share a common narrative that is inextricably rooted in our history—trauma. Whether our ancestors instigated the trauma or had it forced on them by colonial policies, we have lived for well over a century in a warped and inaccurate telling of our national story that influences how we respond to issues like MMIWG. We come to the table with pre-conceived notions of “sides.” Whenever sides are drawn, trauma continues[5]. In Canada, that trauma is concentrated on Indigenous Peoples.

“Trauma narratives are deep-seated, intergenerational streams of thoughts and behaviours clustered around experiences of violence and expectations for further violence to occur” (Rosen). Regardless of whether we are Indigenous, settlers, or recent immigrants or refugees, we are shaped by recurring themes of colonialism and immigration—displacement, dislocation, unsafe spaces—juxtaposed with our public image of multicultural acceptance, growth, and success. Two dissonant realities jostling up against one another. As a nation, we cannot escape the narrative of trauma because we are all Treaty people who live on Indigenous lands. Treaties are official documents signed between sovereign nations on behalf of their peoples. Today, we are those people, the inheritors of those treaties and of intentional genocide; in other words, all Canadians live within a national context of trauma. Just as a family is affected by a single member who has experienced trauma so, too, are non-Indigenous Canadians affected by the impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples. The trauma has not remained in the past, as the statistics on MMIWG show us so clearly. But we are often blind to the ongoing, deep colonization of current practices and policies: even when statistics or personal stories confront those who have not experienced the trauma firsthand, they often choose to deny or ignore its reality.

As non-Indigenous allies, it is up to us to move this ubiquitous divide-and-conquer motif of colonization to one of finding the path forward to healing our national family. And we must disrupt the narrative that assumes a sum total of health, that when one “side” is compensated for injustice, the other side somehow loses. Tragically, this discourse of trauma continues because we have not healed, we have not dealt with the root causes of our trauma. In Torn from our Midst, Anglican priest and organizer of the sacred space at the 2008 MMIW conference, Cheryl Toth, reminds us of how difficult it is to heal when the bodies of our loved ones have not been found. She writes, “We need to remind ourselves that they are missing to us but not to the Creator. The One who birthed them to the earth knows where on the earth their bodies lay. Their spirits, too, have a home with the Holy One. It is we who cannot rest” (Torn, 21). In order to heal, we need to understand how current systems—education, health, justice, social services—protect some Canadians and violate others, and we need to understand why Indigenous Peoples and allies frequently run up against a wall of silence or backlash for speaking up.

It is not an intellectual understanding alone that is needed. Healing is heart work. Lori Campbell, a participant and leader in the 2008 MMIW conference, wrote of the courage it took for her to speak about violence in lesbian relationships; her courage was rewarded with understanding nods from the audience (Torn, 234). She wrote of the heart connection that heals, and how her participation as a woman drummer in the Rainwater Singers, led by Elder Betty McKenna, is part of her healing: “Women walk towards the drum. They sit with us . . . the energy is strong . . . it is the powerful, healing energy of the united heartbeat of women connecting with the universal heartbeat—the heartbeat of Mother Earth” (235). Connections between education and relationship-building, understanding, and heart work bring hope and healing.

Hope: A Decade of Connecting the Dots

Since 2008, Canadians are more aware of, and even more accepting of, what the stories and statistics tell us about MMIWG. Slowly, the national discourse is connecting the dots, making the connections between historic realities and current social crises[6]. In broad strokes, we see shifts in universities as more Indigenous scholars are hired, as penetrating scholarship deepens our knowledge base, as meaningful land and treaty acknowledgements are more frequently used in many public spaces, and as the media begins to better represent Indigenous communities and concerns. Admittedly, while there is hope, there is also backlash, but that should not overshadow such shifts. Below are some further examples of the hopeful developments in Canada over the past decade.

  • The completion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that listened to and documented over 6,000 survivor’s testimonies of residential schools, resulting in the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action that are actively being implemented across the broad public sector (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada).
  • Cindy Blackstock wins her case and secures the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling that the federal government has failed in its responsibilities to children on reserves. The ruling that the government does not provide adequate housing, education, health, water, and more, resulted in the implementation of Jordan’s Principle (First Nations Child & Family Caring Society).
  • Four prairie women, three of them Indigenous, create the Idle No More movement as a response to a federal government omnibus bill that threatened Indigenous sovereignty over land and water (Coates, x). The movement has continued to evolve and respond to ever-broadening issues such as the housing crisis on reserves (CBC).
  • Increasing emphasis and a deepening discourse in media representation, including APTN’s mini-series First Contact that records the impact of exposing non-Indigenous Canadians to Indigenous realities.
  • Growing debates on how we memorialize our national history, including controversies around the removal of the first Prime Minister’s statue from public spaces (CBC).
  • The recognition that two-spirit and transgender Indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to violence and require attention designed for their needs (Rainbow Health Ontario).
  • The completion of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls with its report, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The Report calls for a National Action Plan, an Ombudsperson, and a Tribunal to continue to respond to new cases of MMIWG (National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls).

From a historic perspective, even though such developments may continue to be ignored or resisted, the fact that such change has occurred within only ten years should not be overlooked.

Academic research has solidified our connections between historic colonizing practices and current colonialist systems and has surely influenced the general population as well in this shift. Of notable mention are James Daschuk’s multi-award winning book, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Indigenous Life; Colleen Cardinal’s work on mapping the displacement of Indigenous and Métis children during the ‘60s Scoop; and better educational practices such as Sylvia Smith’s development of Project of Heart. Canadian Roots Exchange, a “community of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth committed to building honest and equitable relationships” is yet another example of the integration of academic research into frontline advocacy work.

Concurrently, we have witnessed a growth in publications specifically establishing the connection between the crisis of MMIWG and colonialism, past and present. Of particular mention is Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada (Lavell-Harvard and Brant), Violence Against Indigenous women: Literature, Activism, Resistance (Hargreaves), and Keetsahnak: Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters, (Anderson, Campbell, and Belcourt). Each of these books builds on the last, deepening our knowledge with the stories and perspectives of Indigenous women and families of missing and murdered loved ones. Each emphasises the significance of storytelling and art activism like the Walking with our Sisters exhibit of moccasin vamps that travelled across Canada, and each, repeatedly, seeks action-specific responses from all Canadians.

In certain spaces, particularly where Indigenous journalists are involved, the media’s response to violence against Indigenous women and its reporting on MMIWG has generally improved in the last decade. Connie Walker and her team’s intensive research at the Canadian Broadcasting Company in profiling the individual stories of women who have been murdered or who are still missing from their families and communities is a notable resource (The Current). Journalism students at the University of Regina are encouraged to connect the dots on sexualized and racialized violence (Alwani); they will be able to respond to stories of MMIWG meaningfully in their careers[7].

It is predictable that resistance and backlash will get uglier in response to these incremental shifts. Bronwyn Eyre, the Saskatchewan Party’s Minister of Education, told the Saskatchewan legislature how her son’s education about residential schools was questionable and caused discomfort at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner conversation. In response, Thunderchild First Nation’s Chief, Delbert Wapass, said that Minister Eyre had missed an educational opportunity to contribute to her own son’s education when she “defaulted to misguided ideological tendencies and an easy way out rather than telling the truth” (Wapass).

Sometimes that resistance seems insurmountable. A 2018 survey by Angus Reid suggests “deep fractures” between “divergent yet entrenched attitudes on both symbolic and existential questions” (Hutchins) regarding Indigenization. Fifty-three percent of respondents indicated that enough apologies had been made regarding residential schools, while 47 percent connected the dots between historic colonialism and present-day language, policies, attitudes, and so on. While this MacLean’s article uses these statistics to question the effectiveness of the Liberal government’s efforts towards Indigenization, I would equally argue that a divide of 6 percent between the “entrenched attitudes” would have been significantly larger even ten years ago. Whether your glass is half empty or half full, the fact remains that, because of the work of the TRC, Idle No More, the MMIWG Inquiry, individuals like Cindy Blackstock and Colleen Cardinal, because of the academic research and activism such as is found within the pages of this book, the conversations around the dining room table are taking place in a way I believe they never have before. At least when we converse, we uncover the ugliness through which the hope for reconciliation becomes possible.

Morningstar Mercredi said in her speech at our 2008 conference on MMIW, “Hearing the truths sometimes makes people feel uncomfortable. Well, get uncomfortable.”[8] If Mercredi’s challenge to non-Indigenous people to “get uncomfortable” is taken seriously, reconciliation is not about feeling good about ourselves and our nation. What it might be about is staying hopeful, despite the dissonance, by listening to the stories of resiliency of Indigenous peoples, forming relationships amongst those we don’t know, and eradicating systems and structures that make Indigenous people vulnerable. To do so means a historic shift away from Canada envisioned as a white British project, a project fraught with intergenerational trauma, to a nation that can reconcile its past by changing its trajectory.

Layout of Book

This book began with ceremony. Tobacco and cloth were offered with a request for the blessing of our book and for all its readers. Our guiding Elder, Betty McKenna, First Nation Anishnabae, prayed for the duration of the tobacco and tied the cloth to her prayer bush as she prayed. To begin the book in a spiritual way not only honours traditional Indigenous practices, it reminds us that, without building our relationships between one another, creation, and our spirits, we cannot heal from the pain and loss we suffer when violence occurs.

Section Two, “Epistemic Erasure Rejected,” contextualizes the issue with retrospection and updates. Carrie Bourassa weaves the personal and political together in her story of reclaiming her Métis identity and heritage through her post-secondary education on Indigenous health and governmental policies in Canada. As a stand-alone chapter in a section, this story represents the growing number of Indigenous women who have become thoughtful and inspirational leaders in our midst.

The following section relates the global history of femicide, beginning with a chapter by Amnesty International fieldworkers Crystal Geisbrecht and Gordon Barnes providing us with a national and international perspective on femicide. As the original initiator who brought global attention to the stolen sisters from our nation, Amnesty continues to provide global support to holding people and institutions accountable for their negligence towards Indigenous women. Wendee Kubik and Carrie Bourassa’s following chapter documents the sequence of events that eventually resulted in the Canadian government forming the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. If readers sense some impatience with this timeline, you are not wrong!

An updated chapter on the political realities of Indigenous women in Mexico follows. Cynthia Bejarano captures the tragedy of femicide in Mexico, specifically on the U.S. border in Ciudad Juarez. Now infamous as a place where maquiladora factory workers are most vulnerable to being stolen, Cynthia clearly analyzes the stages of resistance that families and activists have engineered to bring justice for their missing women. Following Bejarano’s chapter, readers receive another update from the original edition from Kim Erno. In Torn from our Midst, Kim Erno explained how direct violence against Indigenous women is used by the Mexican government and police to serve global neoliberal economics in removing Indigenous people from the public space. We include this chapter, accompanied by a timely reflection from Kim on the connection between violence against Indigenous women and violence against our environment and Mother Earth. Similarly, Leonzo Barreno’s chapter shows how women are directly targeted in Guatemala through state violence and drug cartels. Readers might wish to connect this story to the upsurge in refugees from Latin America seeking refuge in the U.S. and Canada and to Canada’s mining companies in countries from this region. The connection demonstrates the vulnerability of women and girls in those caravans of displaced persons as they seek asylum from femicide in their countries of origin.

One of the unique features of the first edition was that we included stories of family members, and we continue this in our Section Four, “Family Stories of Trauma and Resistance.” In 2008, very little time or attention was given to these important stories. Through the work and publications by NWAC and Sisters in Spirit, digital platforms run by family members, and activist events run by Amnesty and innumerable local communities, these voices have created their own public space. The MMIWG Inquiry listened to 2,380 family members, and stories are still being collected (National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls). Increasingly, the issue is less one of representation than it is one of national response. That is, best practices now rest with Indigenous consultation and leadership on implementing changes. Wherever there is a victim, there is a story, and it will always be the responsibility of the entire nation to listen, to believe, and to act. In the second section of this edition, we include one new story and one updated one.

Tracey George Heese speaks from her perspective as a daughter whose mother was stolen from her. She threads her story alongside the stories of her mother and grandmother to create a three-generational perspective of how colonialism catastrophically affects Indigenous women in Canada. Similarly, Paula Flores updates us on the story of her daughter who disappeared in Ciudad Juarez. By placing these stories alongside one another, we hear two things: how global femicide is the result of colonialist practices and beliefs and how the spirit of resistance refuses to allow women to be dehumanized or erased. We especially thank and recognize Tracey and Paula for their courage in sharing their stories in spite of the pain we know it brings. We ask readers to honour these family members by bearing witness to their stories.

Section Five, called “Organizational Resistance: Action from Within” challenges us to think about the systems and institutions within which we work and live. Academic researchers and social fieldworkers from RESOLVE bring sharp attention to the particulars of interpersonal violence and the vulnerability of Indigenous women who lack social safety nets in Northern Saskatchewan. They map our ongoing national failure to provide safety and health for Indigenous women, each of them a citizen of Canada. What it also shows is a clear path forward within social services, one that depends entirely upon the will of governments, both provincially and nationally. Will they meet the challenge?

From the implementation perspective, we read Betty Ann Pottruff and Barbara Tomparowski’s report from Saskatchewan’s Provincial Partnership Committee on Missing Persons. This report shows both the challenges and successes of a governmental body that relies upon the direction of family members, Elders, and community leaders.

Torn from our Midst contained a lengthy section on the role that art activism played in generating interest and providing education in the 2008 conference. We continue in this book to recognize that the heart must be moved before change is possible. Sylvia Smith, creator of an intergenerational, relationship-building, educational, art activism program called Project of Heart provides us with an example of what transformation looks and feels like. It is hopefulness in the context of our national dissonance!

The section “Decolonizing Postsecondary Institutions” focusses on the question of institutional and pedagogical decolonization. The chapters provide numerous examples of how academics are decolonizing their methodologies—who is the expert, how do we teach—as well as their data—what resources can we rely on? Speaking from her experiences as the first Director of Indigenization at the University of Regina, Shauneen Pete uses her administrative perspective to reflect on the challenges and potentiality of Indigenization programs on university campuses. As a storyteller, Shauneen equally brings the matter straight to the heart of individual will.

Brenda Anderson provides reflections from over a decade of teaching a third level Women’s and Gender Studies course on missing and murdered Indigenous women. It is hoped the chapter, along with a sample syllabus in Appendix A, will generate ideas for similar kinds of work in campuses across the country. Jennifer Brant’s chapter documents Indigenous women’s literatures to note how personal stories are used to transform student awareness and build empathy, while Danielle Jeancart’s chapter introduces a newer discourse in Canada on Indigenous masculinities. Each of these chapters illustrates a rich and growing base of information that is being used at the postsecondary level. Increasingly, the resiliency of Indigenous peoples and the leadership of Indigenous women are emphasized in academia over and above the prevalence of victimhood messaging. This is yet another signifier of decolonization as non-Indigenous scholars learn how to stand meaningfully alongside Indigenous peers. In this way, we see shifts and fractures in the mirrors of academia that have for far too long privileged the perspectives of white settler education and European modes of learning. So much more remains to be done, yet the signs of change are clearly there to see.

The two videos below set a context for this book.  All films included in this book come from a dvd of videos taken from a dvd that was part of the first edition of Torn from our Midst:  Voices of Grief, Healing and Action from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Conference of 2008.  Appreciation goes to the conference videographer and creator of the dvd, John Hampton.  The first video below is a trailer that contains scenes and voices from the conference, and the second video is a slideshow of pictures.  All of these and all other videos that follow in this book are copyright to the editors, and are not to be used outside the context of this book.

 

 

 

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.” 2015. Accessed September 2019. https://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf.

Wapass, Chief Delbert. “Education minister’s ignorance ‘Trump-esque,’ says chief after treaty education comments” CBC (November 9, 2017), Saskatoon. Accessed July 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/thunderchild-first-nation-chief-delbert-wapas-education-minister-1.4394973.


  1. The terms femicide and feminicide are used interchangeably in this book by different authors, reflecting the changing nature of new language, as well as the usage of different terms in different countries. The differences have been maintained to reflect how contemporary this issue is, and to honour the choice of the authors in the terms they wish to use. Canadian resources appear to have adopted ‘femicide’ as the preferred term.
  2. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women stated that “violence against women in Canada remains a ‘serious, pervasive and systematic problem,’ and that ‘Indigenous women . . . are overtly disadvantaged. . . . (Indigenous women) face marginalization, exclusion and poverty because of institutional, systemic, multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination” (#CallItFemicide, 54). See also Chapter 15 in this book where I identify the common elements of colonialism in Australia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Canada in relation to MMIWG.
  3. Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls uses the word genocide to describe violence against Indigenous women and girls as deliberate and ongoing tools of colonization. A supplementary report, A Legal Analysis of Genocide, was simultaneously released. Media and politicians immediately latched onto questioning the usage of the term in what can only be seen as rhetoric designed to divert those for whom the facts and evidence are new and seemingly incredulous. Indigenous women’s voices are yet again questioned and risk being lost amongst the voices of the privileged (The Star, June 10, 2019).
  4. The poster was seeking information on the disappearance of Amber Redman. Her mother tells her story in “Wicanhpi Duta Win/Red Star Woman: Amber Redman’s Story” (Hampton, Anderson, Kubik 2010, 40).
  5. We need only think of the trial of Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer who was acquitted for the fatal shooting of a young Indigenous man, Colten Boushie. The trial was followed by a deeply disturbing level of entitled racist comments and actions across the country. Sides were not just drawn; they had long existed (Deranger).
  6. A poll taken within a week of the release of the MMIWG Inquiry report showed that 53 percent of Canadians believed the word genocide should be used in relation to MMIWG. What was understood by that word varied: “As to who is responsible for the genocide, 32 percent blamed Canada's British and French founders and 25 percent blamed Catholic and Protestant churches. Another 21 percent said all Canadians share responsibility for the injustice while just one per cent blamed government . . . .71 percent said they're proud of Canada's history, including 53 percent of those who strongly agreed with the finding that Indigenous women have been victims of genocide” (Bryden).
  7. Even the language used in reporting news is shifting. Mathieu Landriault documents the impact that politician’s language has on mainstream media’s significant shift from using the term ‘Aboriginal’ to ‘Indigenous’ (Landriault).
  8. Torn from our Midst DVD.

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