By: Phoebe Shao {Volunteer}

In 2009, StatCan reported the victimization of Aboriginal women triple that of non-Aboriginal women. Indigenous women are five to seven times more likely to die from violence compared to non-indigenous women. Canadian law enforcement and public officials have long been aware of the lack of measures taken to prevent acts of violence against indigenous women. In some cases, police brutality has contributed to the acts of violence. Helen Michell, a paraplegic, indigenous woman was subjected to abuse by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) when she was dragged out of her van and beaten in broad daylight. In 2004, a young native woman was dragged to death by a pickup truck. In British Columbia, the “Highway of Tears” is infamous for the large number of Aboriginal women who have gone missing. The high levels of violence and disappearance of native women in the past 30 years has resulted in communal action across Indigenous communities in Canada. The collective response of the Indigenous community launched the national Sisters in Spirit campaign in 2004 raising public awareness and forcing the government to take action.

The federal government has responded by announcing plans to spend $10 million over five years to address violence against Aboriginal women and girls. Beginning 2010, The Standing Committee on the Status of Women teamed up with Aboriginal organizations, academics, and women to gain a better understanding of the extent and nature of the violence to form possible solutions. The fundamental issues that were found to be the underlying issues of many acts of violence include poverty, child welfare, discrimination and lack of response from justice system, racism, colonialism, and housing challenges. The Committee has made limited progress due to lack of clear direction, but the recent visit in August 2013 from representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will help to ensure accountability of federal and local actions taken to protect Indigenous women.

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