Open letter to Yukon MP Ryan Leef,
First off, I would like to say gunalcheesh for highlighting the need for an inquiry that addresses violence against aboriginal women. Having grown up in the Yukon, I have seen posters of missing women, made by their families, not on the official RCMP poster. I remember when Angel Carlick went missing the same month that a non-native girl’s disappearance in Ontario caused a code orange.
As an indigenous woman, it hurt to see the discrepancy between the way Angel’s case was handled by her family, with no support from RCMP and media, and the reaction to the non-native girls’s disappearance: it was all over every single news station. So, thank you, mahsi cho, for your support in asking for national inquiry.
Now, I believe it’s been a year since the Cohen Commission released its recommendations on the fishing industry, and none of the recommendations have been addressed nor implemented. Why is this? In my community, Atlin, we used to receive multiple fish a year from our First Nation for food. Now, we’re lucky to get one. What are the repercussions of the dwindling salmon population? It’s a part of our identity. We survived off salmon for over 7,000 years in the Taku River region. It’s our inherent, aboriginal right to fish.
I understand that aboriginal rights can be limited for accepted purposes, like conservation, but can other activities, such as mining, sport fishing, and other resource extraction be limited to ensure we have a right to continue to live the way we did for millennia? Our relationship with the fish is sacred, and if we keep allowing tailings ponds to seep into the ground, trailing contaminated groundwater into our rivers, this sacred relationship is headed for ruin.
This threat to our identity, because let’s face it, that’s what happens when we lose our traditions that connect us to our ancestors, this threat shows itself in many ways. Fewer people gather traditional knowledge. More people migrate into the city, at risk of losing their identity, and we all know that the blase attitude over losing indigenous women wouldn’t happen unless our society was able to compromise a person’s identity into mass generalizations. And if that’s the case, then this neglect over our traditional way of life is the perfect way to start the process of de-identification.
Finally, in your push for a national inquiry, what do you hope to achieve? A report with recommendations that will be implemented, creating changes in women’s lives? Or will it be just another inquiry collecting dust on the back shelf, right next to that Cohen Commission?