For Immediate Release: December 6, 2012
23 YEARS AFTER MONTREAL POLYTECHNIQUE: ARE WOMEN SAFER?
(Saskatoon—December 6, 2012) FSIN First Vice-Chief Kimberly Jonathon today reflected on the 23 years that have passed since Marc Lepine’s murderous rampage at Montreal Polytechnique. Today, our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. With this, comes our steadfast resolve to end violence against women.
Speaking on behalf of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the First Nations Women’s Commission, Vice-Chief Jonathon said, “After 23 years, it seems that women still have a long way to go in reclaiming our place in our Circles.”
“I don’t know what the Robert Pickton report will say but I hope it provides some clear answers. As Indigenous leaders, we have a pretty good idea where the violence in our communities is rooted. It is rooted in colonization and, more specifically, in Canada’s Indian Residential School System. We’re still struggling to address that legacy,” added First Vice-Chief Jonathon.
Aboriginal people have had a couple of opportunities to deal with the legacy but unfortunately those opportunities have not brought healing to completion. The work of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation remains unfinished. The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement has helped some, but many continue to struggle with the pain of their unresolved trauma. We now have to find the way to continue the healing journey on our own.
Last week, Chief Perry Bellegarde attended a ceremony honouring graduates of Aboriginal Women Leaders, a mentorship and networking program designed to increase the representation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women in positions of leadership. He shared his feelings at the time. He said, “Today, I hold female leaders up for their determination and significant contributions to making our communities better places to live.” He also said, “Just as we know from our ceremonies, balance is needed. And, as men, we can help turn things around and restore balance. We can do so by reclaiming our traditional role as guardians and protectors.”
“His words give me hope. As women, we are working to reclaim our rightful place in leadership roles, but we need help and support from the men in our societies. I too am confident that we can come up with effective ways of helping our people heal. But let’s not kid ourselves: the violence against women continues,” added Vice-Chief Jonathon.
When one compares the rates of Aboriginal cases to those involving all women nationally, the picture becomes glaring. 20% of the women and girls missing nationally are Aboriginal. In Saskatchewan, the rate is 38%. An average of 67% of all women and girls killed in Canada are Aboriginal. In Saskatchewan, the average is 61%.
The cases of hundreds of missing and murdered women remain effectively unresolved. We have a number of initiatives underway to achieve our goal and objectives. This past July, the FSIN called on the Government of Saskatchewan to support an in-depth, national public inquiry into missing and murdered First Nation women. We renew that call now.
We are also working to establish a First Nation Women’s Institute specifically designed for First Nation Women. The Institute would provide education, training and employment opportunities in an effort to improve the social and health conditions for First Nation women.
“We need to work together, both internally and with external partners, if we are to succeed. I also feel that it’s important, on this occasion, to honour the women who have come before me, and who broke the trail for women leaders, like Marie-Anne Daywalker-Pelletier, who has been Chief of Okanese for 31 years,” concluded Vice-Chief Jonathon.
Kimberly Jonathon is the first woman elected as a Vice-Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.
For more information:
Mervin Brass, Executive Director of Communications
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