As many in Squamish were all aflutter over the plastic straw ban and the measles outbreak, a national campaign to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women went mostly unnoticed, even though it had a strong local connection.
Squamish-based actor Lorne Cardinal, of Corner Gas and many other productions, lent his image and voice to the powerful campaign associated with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The impact of the videos and photos published since Feb. 19 comes from the fact they feature the voices of those who are affected or connected with the issue.
“Our women and girls are sacred,” Clifford Crowchild, son of Jacqueline Crazybull who was murdered in 2007 says in a video that is part of the campaign, which features well-known faces, such as Cardinal, but also many relatives of the missing and murdered.
The federal government launched the independent inquiry in September 2016 in response to advocacy by Indigenous and social services groups calling for action.
Action was beyond needed.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit females make up approximately four per cent of the female population in Canada but 24 per cent of homicide victims.
Let that sink in.
And that isn’t all.
“Indigenous women are physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, or robbed almost three times as often as non-Indigenous women… Simply being Indigenous and female is a risk,” states the interim report Our women and girls are sacred, which was drafted as part of the inquiry.
And while violence against non-Indigenous women has decreased, that isn’t the case for Aboriginal peoples.
The idea of the February campaign is to call attention to what has happened and what needs to be done.
“With most movements within our communities and in our countries, it’s usually the women that are doing it first. Being a changemaker means standing beside the woman, holding her up, assisting her. I would like to see that more from other men in high profile places, to say ‘enough is enough,’” Cardinal says in one of his spots on Facebook and Instagram. “Our circle has been broken, it’s been broken for generations, and that’s how we have to start, by respecting each other, but mainly, respecting our women who are the life givers.”
Those of us living on the territory of the Skwx_wú7mesh, who have not been untouched by the targetting of women and girls, have a responsibility to keep this issue on the front burner with various levels of government.
The inquiry was a good start, but further drastic action is needed to address the systematic and institutionalized racism that infects our governments, law enforcement, medical system, and schools.
We are just getting started.