Congress 2021 blog edition
Hosted by the University of Alberta Signature Area, Intersections of Gender, the open event “MMIWG Calls for Justice; Indigenous Women on Rising Up” consisted of a series of presentations on reflections in response to the findings of the 2019 Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
Presenters included Intersections of Gender Associate Director Rebecca Sockbeson, Elder Ekti Margaret Cardinal, Commissioner Michele Audette, internationally renowned Indigenous rights activist and author Winona LaDuke, President of Maskwacis Cultural College Dr. Claudine Louis, PhD Student at the University of Alberta in Indigenous Peoples Education Sarah Auger, artist and Assistant Professor in the Facutly of Extension at the University of Alberta Dr. Lana Whiskeyjack, performance artist and international advocate for MMIWG Stephanie Harpe, and President of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) Lisa Weber.
Additionally, this event was joined by Fawn Wood from the respected multi-generational traditional singing Wood family, who sang in honour of MMIWG, and Coordinator of Educational Programs at Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society Diane LaFleur, who performed a closing song. This open event was live translated in French, Cree, and Nakota Sioux.
The publication of the “National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” in June 2019 was significant as it stated as fact that the human rights crisis involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is not one of just cultural genocide, but of genocide. Even though some people at the time wanted to shape and discredit Indigenous voices, this report exists today not as merely a recommendation, but a call for justice. A legal imperative, as many of the presenters called it. No longer are we able to pretend that it did not – does not continue to – happen, or to pretend that each instance was an isolated incident. Rather, we should recognize that the institution as a whole, paired with a fundamental lack of understanding amongst the public about systems of oppression and systemic violence, was – and continues to be – responsible for the loss of many loved ones. This violence is not ‘history’ or a thing of the past. To this day, there are still weekly cases of murder, rape, systemic violence, children being removed from their families, and human trafficking occurring amongst Indigenous populations, and of Indigenous women going missing, or being beaten or abused.
Despite the fact that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement in June 2020, on the one-year anniversary of the publication of the 2019 report, that “ending this national tragedy through the co-development and implementation of a distinctions-based National Action Plan is an urgent priority for our government,” Weber said that no such National Action Plan has yet been developed. Tired of reconciliation rhetoric, Weber cited education and higher learning as important factors in inciting real change in the system. Echoing this sentiment, Sockbeson argued that it is the responsibility of the Canadian government and associated education systems, such as colleges and universities – who have ultimately benefitted from, and continue to benefit from the legislated or state-sanctioned dispossession and breaking of treaties – to address this problem. Thus, Sockbeson suggested the necessitation of compulsory teaching and learning of this “difficult knowledge” or truth within the higher education system.
If you’d like to read the 2019 Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls yourself, you can find the link to the report, along with the executive summary of it, here: https://bit.ly/3yH195j.