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
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.