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Violence towards Indigenous people in Canada is not only historical

Stolen Sisters March. Photo by Anabelle Budd, Editorial Assistant On Feb. 17, I participated in Victoria’s Stolen Sisters Memorial March, standing behind the Indigenous women, girls, and 2spirit drummers and singers who were leading the community. We walked to remember and honour Indigenous women, girls, and 2spirit people who have gone missing and been murdered on this land.

My name is Anabelle Budd. My parents are both from France, but they moved to Mexico in the early 1990s. I was born and raised in Mexico City, largely within a French community, and moved to Montreal for university in 2011. I finally settled in Victoria in 2015 and acknowledge that I did so with no invitation from the Lekwungen communities, Songhees, and Esquimalt First Nations, on whose unceded and traditional territories I now reside. That settling requires acknowledgment.

Despite the heavy rain and strong winds, the community showed up to the Stolen Sisters march in large numbers. The march began at Our Place Society and concluded in front of the Legislature, where we gathered to listen to powerful songs and speakers.

We were present because in Canada, Indigenous women are 16 times more likely to be murdered or missing than white women. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, that number rises to 19 times more likely. “This feels like pre-Civil Rights Era in the American South.”

A week prior to this march, on Feb. 10, a group gathered in front of the courthouse in a show of solidarity with Colten Boushie and his family.

Boushie, a 22 year old from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, was shot and killed on a farm while out driving with his friends on Aug. 9, 2016. On Feb. 9, 2018, a visibly all-white jury ruled that Gerald Stanley, the farmer accused of shooting Boushie, was acquitted of all charges. Stanley walked free.

Nikki Sanchez, a PhD student in Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria, spokesperson for the David Suzuki Foundation, and Indigenous media consultant, organized the vigil in Victoria.

“The consistent statement being echoed through the crowd [was that] this feels like pre-Civil Rights Era in the American South,” Sanchez says. “To have a judge and jury that are entirely white deliberating over a case that is so racially charged . . . in an era of reconciliatory politics and rhetoric . . . is such blatant injustice.”

In Canada, Indigenous men account for approximately 71 per cent of Indigenous homicide victims in Canada, meaning that Indigenous men are murdered in greater numbers and at higher rates relative to the general population — than even Indigenous women.

A week after the Stolen Sisters Memorial March, on Feb. 23 and 24, marches were organized across the country and in Victoria to demand justice for Tina Fontaine, in the aftermath of yet another not-guilty verdict that left questions about her death unsolved. Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation, was found dead in August 2014. Her case became a catalyst for Canada’s national inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

How are stories and numbers like these possible?

“Canada”: An Origin Story

To understand these cases in their full complexity, it is critical to place them within their historical and cultural context.

The premise of Canadian identity arose at the time of the Confederation. It is one of “pioneers” settling across vast stretches of unoccupied lands and rendering them productive. This myth, which reflects colonialization’s driving thirst for economic (hence territorial) power, was heavily promoted by the new Canadian state, in its call for the conquest of the West.

But considering the […]

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