Read the report and take action.
That’s the recommendation of two Secwepemc women who have dedicated countless hours to pursuing justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and their families across Canada and in the Shuswap.
The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released June 3 and contains 231 individual Calls for Justice to specific segments of society as well as all Canadians.
Jody Leon, who has been advocating for missing and murdered women for years, as well as organizing searches in the Shuswap, says the report is very comprehensive, outlining the systemic erosion of Indigenous women’s value.
She points to the section on the RCMP’s treatment of Indigenous women as an example.
It gives a voice to Indigenous women, she says, if RCMP are not respecting them or taking action to find women who are missing and murdered.
“The one-year anniversary, the two-year anniversary. Time is going on. Each of those things is hard for the family, hard for the community, hard for the world. These women have gone into a void.”
Leon appreciates the call for a special crime task force to address missing women.
A Splatsin member, Leon urges, “Let’s see police out here checking on women. Let’s see them out here shutting down the drug houses…”
And she adds words of caution regarding the Calls for Justice in the report.
“Don’t allow for the downplaying of those… Anytime there’s an inquiry or commission, it’s on the back of people’s tears.”
Leon asks that all people look at the Calls for Justice and take action. She notes similar issues were reported in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996.
“It’s time to stop studying and start acting… If they think it’s too cumbersome of a read, think of all the people so terribly impacted. It’s no longer respectful to let it sit on a shelf.”
Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson also emphasizes the importance of all citizens reading the report.
“It’s a critical part of addressing the colonial genocide and, before people start getting taken aback by that word, they need to understand the hundreds of years our people had colonial oppression and policy and removal from our territorial lands,” she says, listing residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, day schools, the high rate of incarceration of men and women and the high representation of Indigenous children in care.
“It’s the worst form of genocide, the slow process of exterminating our people over many hundreds of years.”
Wilson reveals that 24 years ago her sister Julia, at age 21, was the victim of a murder-suicide carried out by her partner.
“It was tragic, we lost two young people to violence,” she says, an impact of the oppression, racism and discrimination.
“That shakes you to the core. Any family that goes through that, it’s very violent and tragic. Our family is still healing.”
She adds: “There are many, many with the same story across Canada.”
Wilson emphasizes the importance of bringing justice to those women still missing, and those families who have lost loved ones. She notes that women like Jody Leon have been working without government support, which must change.
She says she thinks a large part of why Indigenous women are missing and murdered stems from removal from the land.
“If we had jurisdiction over our territory we would be able to take care of our woman and children and families and have our wealth that sustains us. At the moment the government takes everything and hands out programs and services.
“It will take all of us to change this.”