Debates of the Senate  
  1st Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 145, Issue 5.
    Wednesday, November 26, 2008
 
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
  Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

In the summer, I attended a conference designed to raise public awareness about violence against women and to bring attention to the alarming rise in the number of missing indigenous women.

On August 14, the first annual Missing Women: Decolonization, Third Wave Feminisms and Indigenous People of Canada and Mexico conference took place in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Honourable senators, I wish to share the thoughts of my summer student, Aline Fontaine, who also attended this conference.

I ask: 'In Canada, what can we do to address the systemic violence, poverty, racism and sexism towards Aboriginal women?'

As a conference participant, I had the opportunity to witness the realities of street life in north central Regina. I was horrified by the sight of under-age Aboriginal girls on the street, prostituting themselves.

I ask: 'Is this real? Or am I simply dreaming?'

In Canada, the reality of sexual exploitation and unsolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is a hidden issue. When it is talked about, people don't want to hear about it. Many don't even want to think about it. Disturbing as it is, we must confront it. We must look at how street life perpetuates the cycle of violence, prostitution and abductions of First Nations women. We cannot afford to walk away; we must uncover the hidden issues First Nations face on a day-to-day basis.

I ask: 'How?'

There must be systemic and social changes made in Aboriginal communities. First Nations must raise awareness and understanding in an effort to change individual views, perceptions and practices. Most importantly, we as Aboriginal people must address ourselves to making the necessary fundamental changes, but we can't do it alone. We need support from governments, from the private sector and from Canadians because this situation is simply unacceptable.

I ask: 'When?'

The time is now and we must take action. I urge Canada's leaders to work with First Nations in developing strategies to create change. Together in solidarity, we can fix this terrible wrong and develop solutions that enable First Nations to overcome poverty and its consequences. It's time for First Nations, Canadians and Government leaders to stand up and say: 'No More.'

Honourable senators, as an Aboriginal woman old enough to be the grandmother of these prostituted children, I ask you to support the recommendation made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to establish an inquiry into the 511 Aboriginal women and girls who have disappeared or been murdered.