Indigenous rights have always been a topic of great interest and concern to me. In a country such as Canada, where we pride ourselves on being an inclusive and forward-thinking nation, it’s hard to believe that Indigenous people have been treated so poorly. From families being separated and young children being forced to live in residential schools, to the lack of funding reservations and communities receive, to the racism faced on a day-to-day basis, it’s an aspect of Canadian society that isn’t given much attention. That in itself is an injustice and tragedy.
Many of us learn in elementary school that the First Nations people were the first ones to settle in Canada, years before Europeans colonized the country. However, what isn’t taught as openly is that, despite being Canada’s original inhabitants, they were forced to abandon their ways of life and conform to that of the Europeans, leaving behind traditions and moving into a world of racism and hardship – and that’s putting it lightly. While many might think these acts are in the past, one need only read the news to learn that Canada’s Indigenous population is still facing conditions that are similar to the ones they dealt with all those years ago. Did you know that, despite it being 2020, many Indigenous communities still don’t have access to clean water or affordable housing? Were you aware that many communities still have to fight to keep ownership of their land and have lost most of it to modern-day development? Finally, did you know Indigenous people face systemic racism on a daily basis by both society and the institutions mean to protect them?
The primary institution I am referring to is law enforcement. One look through the news or through personal testimonies shows that, as a whole, Canada’s First Nation population isn’t treated well by police and other authorities. The reason brought up by many is that this is the result of the systemic racism that’s engrained within Canadian society, something that can hardly be argued when one looks at the statistics.
Throughout Canada, there are numerous unsolved missing persons and murder cases, especially pertaining to Indigenous women and girls. They make up a large percentage, despite being a minority in the overall population. That’s why Stories of the Unsolved will be highlighting these cases throughout the month of February. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday will see a new unsolved case featuring either a missing or murdered Indigenous woman. The aim is to have all the pertinent information in one place and to ensure the proper facts are available, in case someone reading has a tip that could help crack one of the cases. If nothing else, these articles will help get the faces of these women and girls out there, to remind everyone they deserve justice.
I know it’s not my place to speak on Indigenous rights, as I myself am not of Indigenous heritage, but that doesn’t mean I can’t speak up about the racism and poor treatment they’ve received over the years by the Canadian government, existing institutions and society itself. I feel it’s important to keep this conversation going and to remind everyone that Indigenous people have the same rights as all of us. I hope the cases Stories of the Unsolved covers this month help to further that conversation and give these women and girls the much needed attention they haven’t necessarily received in the past.