Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 146, Issue 61.
  Wednesday, October 21, 2009
 
Sisters In Spirit
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, this past October 4, Sisters In Spirit vigils were held nationwide across Canada to remember missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

This is an important day to publicly call for action, accountability and justice for Aboriginal women. Specifically, it is a time for Canadians to take a stand and demand action in efforts to bring attention to the issue of violence against women. This year, an astonishing 72 vigils in 69 communities took place from coast to coast to coast.

According to the Native Women's Association of Canada, there have been an estimated 520 reported cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in the last 30 years. However, there is no complete or accurate number of Aboriginal women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered. As a result, there is a strong possibility that many more cases have not been reported or officially documented.

At the core of this crisis, there is an epidemic that exists within Canadian society. It is an epidemic that targets Aboriginal women simply because they are Aboriginal. High rates of all forms of violence, particularly sexualized and racialized violence, is targeted at Aboriginal women. As a result, Aboriginal women are five times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to die of violence.

Honourable senators, there are many underlying factors that contribute to this problem. Take, for instance, the high prevalence of poverty facing many Aboriginal women. Far too often, Aboriginal women and girls have no social supports or resources in place to help them make better choices in life. Instead, they are left vulnerable, with little or no guidance or direction in their lives. As a result, many are left hopeless, powerless and choiceless, with no vision forward of a healthier, safer life.

Not only is it alarming that more than half of the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls occurred in the last 10 years, it is also startling that the majority of them were under the age of 30. Nearly half of the cases remain unsolved, with no charges laid. This is worrisome. It sends a strong message that Aboriginal women are dispensable and unimportant.

Honourable senators, October 18 marked the eightieth anniversary of the Persons Case, where women were legally recognized as persons and, therefore, could become senators. The numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women make it clear that we have a long way to go before Aboriginal women are also valued and respected persons.