Missing aboriginal women ignored

Angel Carlick’s disappearance and death is one of many. There are missing and murdered aboriginal women all across the country, said Native…

Angel Carlick’s disappearance and death is one of many.

There are missing and murdered aboriginal women all across the country, said Native Women’s Association of Canada president Bev Jacobs.

“It’s a crisis situation, and there’s no public outcry,” she said on Monday.

 “No one even knows it’s a crisis situation with all the missing women and unresolved murders.”

Jacobs, who’s in Whitehorse for this weekend’s aboriginal women’s summit, is hoping to meet up with the Carlick family.

“Even just to send them my condolences and wish we could find a way to stop this,” she said.

When First Nations women go missing, their cases are often treated differently, said Jacobs.

“There’s a total disrespect and stereotype toward aboriginal people that’s got to stop.

“We’re talking about human beings — if a human being goes missing, you don’t treat them any different. And you don’t say, ‘Oh maybe she just ran away somewhere,’ when the family knows there’s something wrong — they’ve got to do something right away.

“If they had searched for (Carlick) immediately, maybe she wouldn’t be gone now.

“It’s a sad situation, when this is occurring across the country and there’s no public outcry.”

Jacobs grew up in a traditional Mohawk family.

It was matriarchal, she said.

“Women were respected for their decision making.”

Jacobs earned a master’s degree in law.

During her schooling, she quickly realized that “the Canadian legal system was being used as a tool to assimilate” her people.

“The Indian Act is the most racist legislation that exists in the world,” said Jacobs.

“It controls a status Indian’s life from the moment they’re born until the time that they die.”

And it affects First Nations women even more than it does the men, she said.

Under Bill C-31, even if a native man married a non-native woman, she was given full status as a First Nations person.

But if an aboriginal woman married a non-native man, she lost her status.

“Those are genocidal policies,” said Jacobs.

“They actually forced women out of their communities — forced displacement happened to aboriginal women across the country, and they took a direct hit as a result.”

As president of the Native Women’s Association, Jacobs was asked to attend the first ministers meeting on aboriginal issues in Kelowna two years ago.

“I had the ear of the Yukon premier (Dennis Fentie) on my left and the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador on my right,” she said.

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams was already listening to aboriginal women in crisis in his community, said Jacobs.

Williams made a commitment to host the first aboriginal women’s conference in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, the following year.

It was an historic event, said Jacobs.

Aboriginal women and female leaders from across the country gathered to talk about the issues.

The minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, Elaine Taylor, attended.

“We came up with an action plan for the feds and the provinces,” said Jacobs.

During the first ministers meeting, Jacobs also talked with Fentie.

“The Yukon government committed to hosting its own aboriginal women’s summit,” she said.

“The Yukon summits are a follow-up to the national one and focus on Yukon aboriginal women’s issues.”

Last weekend a summit was held in Watson Lake.

“About 50 women came up with their own priorities and key messages and themes,” said Jacobs.

There needs to be a voice for women in decision making, she said.

“But because they’ve been oppressed for so long they feel their voices aren’t worthy.”

Family violence, residential school fallout, and education were just some of the issues touched on during the Watson Lake summit.

These issues will be raised at the next national aboriginal women’s summit in Yellowknife in July, she said.

“These summits are not just for talking,” said Jacobs.

“These are summits for action — they are about publicity and they are very serious.”

Aboriginal women are strong, said Jacobs.

“And we want to make sure something is done.”

Jacobs is always hopeful.

“You have to be,” she said.

The Yukon’s second aboriginal women’s summit is being held in Whitehorse this weekend.

For more information contact the Women’s Directorate at 667-3030.

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