The statistics are staggering.
While native women make up four per cent of Canada’s female population, 16 per cent of all women murdered in the country between 1980 and 2012 were indigenous.
Indigenous women are three times more likely to report experiencing violence.
Another report indicates that 55 per cent of the cases involve women and children under the age of 31.
But statistics aside, these women are sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, co-workers and neighbours.
That’s why the federal government’s decision to move ahead with an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women is so important.There is a need to know why indigenous women fall victim more to violence than other women, whether it’s at the hands of a loved one or a stranger.It also must be determined if there are systemic influences that lead to indigenous women being potentially treated differently by the police and courts.We must also know if age-old stereotypes within the broader society have helped create these situations.
Nobody should have illusions that an inquiry will immediately stop abductions and murders overnight. But what the process says is that all lives matter, that it’s not acceptable for these tragic circumstances to be so prevalent.
Hopefully the inquiry will also allow all Canadians to reflect on what kind of country we live in and the need for all citizens to be safe and secure. There’s long been a division among First Nations and the rest of the country, and now is the time to close that gap once and for all.