Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women:...

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: Addressing the Crisis

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By Avreet Jagdev

Across Canada, Indigenous communities continue to face many ongoing injustices, including overrepresentation in the criminal justice system, higher rates of unemployment, and poorer health conditions. One issue that impacts Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people in particular is experiencing a disproportionate rate of violence, including kidnapping and homicide. This is such a large issue that the term MMIWG2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People) has been coined to refer to it.

As the Assembly of First Nations reports, Indigenous women are four times more likely to be victims of violence than women who are not Indigenous. Although they only make up 4.3% of the Canadian population, they represent 16% of all female murder victims and 11% of missing women. Indigenous women are also more likely to experience physical and sexual assault, compared to non-Indigenous women. Despite these shocking statistics, the Canadian Government has failed to adequately address the issue. In 2016, a national inquiry into the issue was put in place. It resulted in 231 calls to justice directed at the government, institutions, social services, and Canadian individuals, which tackled areas requiring reform including education, justice, and health. As of June 2023, only two of these 231 calls to justice were complete. In 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even stated that MMIWG2s was not “high on their radar”.

These examples showcase that the MMIWG2S crisis is not just an issue about the violence that Indigenous women and girls experience, but government and institutional inaction regarding the violence.

The MMIWG2S crisis is rooted in the longstanding oppression of Indigenous people in Canada. The high level of violence faced by Indigenous women, girls, and 2-spirit people is due to their identity as both Indigenous and as gendered, so MMIWG2S is an Indigenous and Gender justice issue.

Amnesty International Canada has declared this violence against Indigenous women an issue of human rights and launched a campaign called “No More Stolen Sisters” in response to the issue of MMIWG2S. They cite a number of factors which contribute to the ongoing crisis, including racist and sexist stereotypes towards Indigenous women, which causes perpetrators to believe that their acts of violence against Indigenous women will not be met with justice. Additionally, the ongoing legacies of colonialism of Indigenous communities lead to the risk of Indigenous women experiencing violence, due to impoverishment, the lasting harm of residential schools, lack of access to resources, and disempowerment within their very communities. Lastly, a key factor is the decades of inaction by governments and law enforcement, which has allowed the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people to continue.

There are several things that young people across the country can do to help address the crisis. The most important step is to be educated about MMIWG2S, as well as other ongoing injustices that Indigenous communities face. Here are a few places to learn more:

Lakota People’s Law Project: MMIW Resource Guide

We R Native: What is the MMIW Movement?

Additionally, it is important to use your voice to amplify the issue. You can do this by talking about it with your friends, doing a project on the issue in school, or circulating information on social media.

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