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How do we stop aboriginal women from disappearing? TED talk with indigenous community representative Beverley Jacobs
International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, has the ultimate goal of ensuring equal rights for current and future generations of both genders. To do that, the UN points out an area where women lag behind men and makes suggestions for how things can be fixed.
This year’s theme, for example focuses on getting more women in the work place, with the goal of raising labour-market participation to the same level as men (globally, according to the UN, it is currently 75% for men, but 50% for women).
For Canada’s indigenous women, the focus, for the time being at least, is squarely on the past. An official enquiry looking into the disappearance and murder of hundreds (estimates range from 500 to 1,100 and possibly even hundreds more) in the past 30 to 40 years got underway on September 1. Its immediate goal is to help families and communities lay the past to rest, but the broader intent is, in keeping with the spirit of Women’s Day, to determine what the social causes behind the crimes are.
Five months after it was set up, and with little accomplished so far, women’s groups and families are starting to lose their patience.
Many had hoped the enquiry would begin hearing the testimony of affected families after a short start-up period. The message now is that the process will not begin until later this spring, probably May.
A first accomplishment has been to set up a website and provide contact information for those struggling with their losses. This, however, has done little to allay concerns: the longer the commission waits to get started, the less certain families with something to contribute – and get off their chest – will be about its ability to help them put the past behind them.
Pauktuutit, an Inuit women’s group, initially criticised the commission for a number of fundamental problems, including such things as having no way of getting in touch with the organisation more than month after it had been set up.
By December, the organisational structure had begun to come together, Rebecca Kudloo, Pauktuutit’s president, admitted after a conference call with its leadership. Still, she remained unconvinced about where it was heading.
“I still have more questions than answers, but this call was a beginning,” she said in a statement. “I repeated that it is important that the inquiry not go into communities, open wounds and leave. I was assured that a health support plan will be developed, but I still don’t know how they will include our Inuit experts.”