Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Remembering lost loved ones

Remembering lost loved ones: 'Now, she will never come back to us'
by Angela Scappatura, from The Sudbury Star, February 17, 2009.

On Saturday, a group of women and children gathered at the University of Sudbury to honour the hundreds of indigenous women murdered or missing in Canada.

Standing behind a table adorned with photos, pamphlets and candles, Marjorie Beaudry talked about the death of her 15-year-old niece.

She held up a framed, black and white photo of the girl and said her young family member is just one of the First Nations women who have never returned home.

Her niece, Mona Redbreast, was in the care of the Children's Aid Society nearly 10 years ago when she was killed while driving a stolen car to her home in Sudbury.

"She was so beautiful, she wanted to be a model," said Beaudry, a fourth year Laurentian University student. "Now, she will never come back to us.

"It's government policy that confined her to that."

It is important to understand the root of problems First Nations women face and create discussion on how they can protect themselves, said Beaudry.

The day of awareness is important to bring attention to the way Indigenous women in Canada are treated, she added.

"There are aboriginal women missing, murdered and unaccounted for. Canada should take up the issue and the cause of finding these women," she said. "It's a legacy of genocide and colonization and it has been happening since the arrival of the westerners.

"These women have to be accounted for."

Grand Council Chief John Beaucage said a major problem is law enforcement does not take complaints of missing First Nations women seriously.

"There is this perception we are a transient population, but when someone moves from one place to another they keep in touch with their family," he said.

"Our family is very important to us. If someone is not getting back to their family or moving somewhere else, or disappearing and don't get back to their family there is obviously a problem."

If the women who went missing were "non-native, out of a middle-class neighbourhood" there would be more public outcry, he said.

"But if it's a native person from a remote reserve, it's almost like this kind of 'don't worry about it, they'll get back to you at some point.' And we know that's not the case," he said.

Part of the solution, he noted, is changing the attitudes of those in charge of searching for the missing women.

"We know that these women are still missing, we saw the situation in Vancouver with all those young women that were murdered and we have a situation in northern Alberta," he said. "There really should be just as much importance put on their lives as anybody else and yet there is this systemic barrier that's preventing it."

Beaudry mourns the loss of her niece and said her death is something that could have been prevented. The mother of three said she helped organize the event so that her daughters and young grandchildren can learn to protect themselves.

"I brought them here specifically for this occasion. It's all about protection," she said.

"Today is also Valentine's Day and it's a day of love. That's the greatest prevention, love."

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