The horrific sex attacks on Rinelle Harper (16) and an unidentified twenty-three (23) year old Aboriginal woman in Winnipeg might prove to change the national conversation.
Justin James Hudson (20) and a seventeen (17) year old offender stand charged with attempt murder, aggravated sexual assault and other serious offences.
Both men are Aboriginal.
The inconvenient truth is unsettling for many in the Aboriginal community who struggle to come to grips with the reality that Aboriginal men could violate “their own” in such a profoundly repulsive way.
The incident is surely a reality check for Aboriginal leaders and supporters of a National Inquiry into the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women issue.
That “reality check” isn’t news for many Aboriginal people who have the clarity to see things for what they truly are. People like Melissa Ridgen, who I recently started following on Twitter.
Melissa refers to herself as a, “One woman Metis rebellion,” but I dare say she’s not alone.
Growing numbers of Aboriginal people are beginning to accept the fact the majority of Aboriginal women killed in this Country are not killed under mysterious circumstances. The RCMP National Review Report provided statistics that painted the ugly picture.
The report revealed ninety (90%) of Aboriginal women are killed by someone known to them.
When you do the math you find sixty-two percent (62%) of Aboriginal women are killed in domestic or family violence attacks while thirty percent (30%) are killed by an acquaintance of some sort.
The report indicates eighty-nine percent (89%) of the perpetrators are men.
So who are these men?
Unfortunately, the report failed to include perpetrator ethnicity.
If it had, there is no doubt Aboriginal men would have been identified as representing the largest demographic in the suspect pool.
Melissa Ridgen is right.
It’s time for an honest conversation.
That conversation has to include a discussion about substance abuse and addiction.
Any experienced law enforcement professional will tell you alcohol is one of the primary driving forces behind violent crime. That is especially true of domestic or family violence.
I recently spoke to a medical professional who works the circuit in northern Manitoba First Nations communities. Her story didn’t shock me. It seems these communities experience a dramatic increase in violent assaults, domestic violence and stabbings when they receive Government or social assistance cheques.
I’ve seen the same phenomenon occur in the City of Winnipeg.
Once those cheques are cashed its just a matter of time before the flood of emergency calls start coming into the 911 communication centres.
The End Game
As a strong proponent of a National Strategy / Action Plan, I find myself contemplating an approach to address the violence.
How do we fix this?
While I don’t pretend to be a sociologist or a social worker, any path to healing surely must include family interventions, education and detoxification.
The time has come to confront substance abuse and dysfunctional family relationships. We can no longer afford to ignore family and spousal violence.
During a two and a half decade career in law enforcement I saw it all. Husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins all killing each other. The incidents were always tragic and completely avoidable.
If we hope to break the cycle people must have options and support.
For starters, government and social service agencies have to be ready to play a more proactive role when it comes to intervening in domestic and family violence.
It’s clear a change in culture is required to bring the numbers down. That change will come with aggressive educational awareness programs.
Education can change generational thinking, behavior and culture.
It was education that influenced generations to use designated drivers, to butt out cigarettes, to “just say no” to drugs and to recycle our garbage to protect our planet. These were all major cultural changes that have proven to improve the quality of life for all of us.
It all started with education.
The evils of domestic and family violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, anger management and coping strategies should be on the curriculum in every school in Manitoba from grade school up to and including high school.
The educational process should be in-depth and include traditional educators, peer education, mentor and survivor testimonials.
Alcohol fuels violence.
That’s true in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families. If we want to reduce victimization we need to dramatically reduce the toxic effects of alcohol.
The Government of Manitoba must exponentially increase funding to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.
At the moment, demand significantly outstrips supply.
Interventions simply don’t work without significant resources and treatment from addiction professionals. Any proactive strategy designed to stop victimization has to include access to these resources.
Residential treatment programs and intensive therapeutic sessions have to be made available to people who are ready to make the commitment to break the cycle.
It’s called healing.
The Great Canadian Lie
It never ceases to amaze me how public perception can be influenced by misinformation, misconceptions, misrepresentations and racist rhetoric.
Issues regarding #mmiw continue to be a controversial and divisive subject.
Politicians across the Country prefer to jump on the National Inquiry bandwagon and not conduct their own independent thoughtful analysis. This kind of intellectual resignation should be offensive to all Canadians.
For politicos, it becomes more about telling constituents what they want to hear than really caring about the affected community.
Misrepresentations, Racist Rhetoric & the Manufactured Script – What they said;
Grand Chief David Harper
“Where else in the world are there over 1,000 women missing? We heard about the missing girls in Africa and there was a public cry on it. Here we have over 1,000 and still no call for a national inquiry.”
Grand Chief Dennis White Bird
“I’m frustrated because there’s 1,100 women that are out there (missing) of First Nation decent and very little is happening.”
(The RCMP report indicates 164 Aboriginal women were reported missing, 105 of these women were reported missing by unknown or foul play suspected while 59 were considered missing by non-suspicious circumstances i.e.: runaways, lost, wandered off.)
Gladys Radek – Aboriginal activist
“As far as they’re concerned it’s just another dead Indian, enough is enough, we want justice.”
Leslie Spillet – Member of the Winnipeg Police Board
“The freaking army would be digging up every inch of that garbage dump to find a white child. We know it, we see it. It just tells us who we are.”
“Do you think if a bunch of kids from River Heights started killing themselves or each other that something wouldn’t be done.”
(The idea that racialized investigative indifference exists in the Winnipeg Police Service is an outright lie easily disproved by the facts. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal female homicides are solved at almost identical rates – 90% vs 91% in the Province of Manitoba.)
Dan Vandal – Winnipeg City Councillor
“There’s a horrible phenomenon going on in Canada and we have to do all things necessary to try to affect change in a positive way.”
(Perpetuating the myth the killings are mysterious to justify calls for a National Inquiry.)
What the Future Holds
Like any significant social change, the driving force for change should come from within the affected community. Of course, the non-Aboriginal community must become meaningful partners and take part in the rehabilitation process.
That journey will be a long and difficult one.
The only question left is, “Will the activist’s demands for an Inquiry continue to be influenced by the manufactured script or are they interested in participating in an honest discussion?”
I continue to watch with interest.