Missing/murdered Aboriginal women in Canada: Applying Gender-Based Analysis within a Culturally Relevent Paradigm

Beverley Jacobs,
Andrea J. Williams
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After almost one year of negotiations, the Native Women’s Association of Canada is pleased to announce that they have received a five-year funding agreement from the government of Canada to address the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. This initiative is titled "Sisters in Spirit".

Through the Sisters In Spirit initiative, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) works in collaboration with other Aboriginal women’s organizations and the federal government to improve the human rights of Aboriginal women and address the violence facing Aboriginal women, in particular the high rates of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. The main objective of the SIS initiative is to address violence against Aboriginal (First Nations Inuit and Métis) women particularly subject to racialized and/or sexualized violence, that is, violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women because of their gender and Aboriginal identity. This type of violence typically occurs in the public sphere, where societal indifference often leaves Aboriginal women at greater risk. When Aboriginal women go missing, their disappearance does not receive the same attention as non-Aboriginal women. This initiative is designed to respond to this indifference by mobilizing the caring power of community.NWAC has received funding for five years from the government of Canada to research and help address the root causes of violence against Aboriginal women, who face discrimination based on gendered racism. The initiative recognizes the need to focus on addressing the multiple forms of oppression facing Aboriginal women and to recognize the complexity of the problems facing Canadian Aboriginal women. Specifically, the funding is designed to increase public understanding and knowledge at a national level of the impact of racialized, sexualized violence against Aboriginal women often leading to their disappearance and death, through the development of community action kits, workshops and conferences.

The initiative is also undertaking qualitative (life histories) and quantitative research on racialized, sexualized violence against Aboriginal women with the families who have female family members that are missing or murdered, in order to gain a better understanding of circumstances, root causes and trends. The initiative is also working with families and the community to develop a policy agenda, whereby NWAC will work with government and community stakeholders to influence required changes.

NWAC will share with participants the culturally-specific gender-based framework they have articulated to guide their research, education and analysis of this issue. Discussion with participants will include the challenges faced in getting the government of Canada to recognize the increased risks faced by Aboriginal women. Promising practices and key partnerships subsequently formed (including with the government of Canada) will also be discussed with the participants. Preliminary findings will be shared with participants and discussion will focus on gaining an understanding of the extent of racialized/sexualized violence against Indigenous women (or marginalized women) internationally, and gain feedback from participants on other strategies they may be engaged in to address this alarming issue.

Keywords: Aboriginal women, Racialized Sexualized violence, Gender Based Analysis
Stream: Politics of Diversity
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Beverley Jacobs

President, Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC)

“GOWEHGYUSEH” BEVERLEY JACOBS is the elected ational President of the Native Women's Association of Canada, 2004-2006. Ms Jacobs believes in lifelong learning and has taken steps to further herself through her education, teachings and employment. She has graduated with a law degree from the University of Windsor law school and a master’s degree in law at the University of Saskatchewan. Beverley is a lawyer and opened her own law office at the Six Nations Grand River Territory in November 2003. She articled with prominent human rights lawyer, Mary Eberts. During her articling experience, she focused on the legal issues for NWAC as interveners in the various law suits, as well as presenting a published paper on matrimonial real property to the Senate Hearings on Indigenous Consulting, also located at the Six Nations Grand River Territory. In her work she has tackled various issues, such as: matrimonial real property, Bill C-31, residential schools, racism, health issues, including diabetes and teen pregnancy. Recently, she was the lead researcher and consultant for Amnesty International on their Stolen Sisters report, which highlighted the racial and sexualized violence against the missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Beverley Jacobs is also very familiar with the Sisters in Spirit Campaign. She not only worked on communications leading up to the launch of the campaign but she also assisted in drafting the Sisters in Spirit proposal.

Beverley Jacobs has been a professor at various educational institutions in Ontario and Saskatchewan, teaching courses on self-determination, Canadian Indian policies, Canadian law and Aboriginal people, First Nations women and the law, and indigenous law, just to name a few. She is also a public speaker and has made numerous presentations across the country on various issues affecting Aboriginal people and specifically, Aboriginal women.

Beverley is very active in her community as a traditional Mohawk woman. She works extensively with the Six Nations traditional chiefs and clan mothers in order to advance indigenous sovereignty. In the past year, she has been working extensively in the international fora. For example, she attended the IV Continental Meeting of Indigenous Women in Lima, Peru. She proudly represented the Six Nations Confederacy at the recent United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) - the focus this year was on indigenous women. At the PFII, she made two interventions and met many indigenous women from across the world. She was invited by the Consejo Sami Maya situated in Guatemala to sit on a panel entitled "Who Killed Her?" She spoke about the violence against indigenous women in Canada specifically, the issues surrounding the missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

Andrea J. Williams

Research and Policy Advisor, Native Women's Association of Canada

Ms Williams has amassed extensive knowledge of Aboriginal culture, communications, language, history and issues. A member of Sandy Lake First Nation, Ms. Williams established a network of contacts in Aboriginal Provincial Territorial Organizations for on-reserve and off-reserve interests, with strengths in identifying, developing and nurturing critical stakeholder relationships to encourage integration and coordination of research, performance measures and impact analysis. She is currently working on a project with the Native Women’s Association of Canada Sisters In Spirit Campaign. The purpose of this contract is to assist with the establishment of a five-year research agenda designed to inform a policy and public education campaign aimed at addressing the underlying factors contributing to the sexualized, racialized violence against Aboriginal women. A number of longitudinal research activities have been identified to provide valid and reliable qualitative and quantitative information to inform a national policy platform. Ms Williams is known for her ability to increase awareness of and bridge different worldviews. She has practical experience working with the diverse Aboriginal communities delivering programs and negotiating self-government, and has an understanding of the issues they face. She also possesses extensive knowledge and understanding of the complexities and restrictions faced by federal and provincial government employees while undertaking program management. Through her work, she has been successful at increasing awareness and understanding of the roles different skills attitudes and beliefs play in the communication and decision-making process. By facilitating an increased recognition and respect for different viewpoints, stakeholders have been able to move forward in reaching their common goals and outcomes.

Ref: D06P0116