Whether we understand or accept it, all of us are witnesses to and participants in a continuing sociological phenomenon. That being the disappearance and slaying of aboriginal women. The latest, being the killing in Winnipeg of Tina Fontaine, aged 15 years young.
A recent study conducted by the RCMP identifies 1131 murdered or missing aboriginal women over the past 30 years, of which, 1017 were murdered. To place this in context, during these three decades, aboriginal women represented 4.3 per cent of Canada’s female population but represented 16 per cent of female homicide victims. The data for Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more dismal. In Manitoba, aboriginal female represented 55 per cent of all female homicides over the past 30 years.
In Saskatchewan, 49 per cent of female homicide victims were aboriginal females. And should anyone be led to believe that our system is working — in 1984, eight per cent of female homicide victims were aboriginal, compared to 23 per cent in 2012.
How can we as civilized society accept such damning evidence that indicts us for failing to protect our vulnerable population?
Our elitist political leaders in Ottawa ask us to believe in simplistic, outdated ideas. The argument is that crimes are the result of conscious, rational and deliberate decisions on the part of perpetrators.
Therefore, society’s responsibility is and should be limited to: 1) finding the criminals and bringing them to justice and 2) to attaching appropriate punishment to a crime. The objective being that the criminal will, when deciding to undertake a criminal act, weigh the benefits and consequences of acting in a criminal manner and act accordingly.
All other things being equal — no more crime, or at least diminished crime, or at least punished criminals. As for the victim — well, satisfaction may be in knowing that the criminal will be punished. As for society — each of us has no responsibility for the actions and circumstances of others, other than to punish.
But all things are not equal. Even the ideas regarding crime, as referenced above, when placed in the context of the realities regarding the disappearance and slaying of aboriginal women, beg questions that can only be answered in the broader context of psychological, cultural, social, political, economic circumstances and conditions. Circumstances and conditions in which all citizens, not just the victims and the criminals, are participants and thus play a role in every killing or disappearance of an aboriginal women.
The significance of this reality is that all of us must play a role in finding solutions. The argument that studies and inquiries have provided a thorough understanding of the issues related to the disappearance and killing of aboriginal women and that these studies and inquiries have given us answers to dealing with the issues, demands another inquiry.
If we know the issues and we know the solutions, why is the disappearance and slaying continuing and even accelerating? The answers may lie in directions we would rather not explore — yet, that is where the solutions may lie.
Rosemarie and Chester Letkeman
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 28, 2014