Murdered and Missing Women on Minds of Métis
THUNDER BAY – At its 21st Annual General Assembly (AGA) in Thunder Bay today, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) passed a resolution calling on the Federal Government to hold national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and adopted a Declaration to end violence against Aboriginal women.
The resolution pointed out that Aboriginal women and girls suffer disproportionately high levels of violence in all its forms and that the results of violence negatively impact the wellbeing families, communities and the whole nation. “According to the RCMP,” declared MNO President Gary Lipinski, “over 1,181 Aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered. Clearly these numbers are without precedent and there are underlying problems and contributing factors that need to be examined. Why are Aboriginal women more vulnerable than main stream society? We absolutely have to do whatever we can do to turn this around and declare that by no means is this an acceptable norm.”
The MNO has been working to address the issue of violence against Aboriginal women almost since its inception in 1993 and is a full partner in Ontario’s Joint Working Group to End Violence AgainstAboriginal Women and a signatory to the Framework to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women. “It’s clear as we approach the 2,000 mark of murdered and missing women that if this involved any other group other than Aboriginal people, the country would be outraged,” argued President Lipinski,“so it is not enough for the Federal government to say these are simply individual acts. These acts of violence are rooted in a history of colonial policies that attempted to destroy cultures and that have traumatized generations of Indigenous people.”
The resolution calls on President Lipinski to personally write Prime Minister Harper to ask for the national inquiry. “It is an issue that no one government or police can address alone, “explained President Lipinski,” “it is an issue that the MNO cannot fully address alone; it requires our collective commitment and actions. We will take a strong stance doing all we can as Métis and united with our First Nations and Inuit brothers and sisters but this is beyond a single community. We must declare collectively that violence against women is not to be tolerated in all forms and it must end.”
The AGA started on Saturday, August 23 with a procession led by Métis veterans. This was followed by greetings from David Zimmer, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Bill Mauro, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry as well as from Mayor Keith Hobbs of Thunder Bay; David Bell, President of the MNO Thunder Bay Métis Council; Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Member of Parliament; John Rafferty, Member of Parliament; Alexander Bezzina, Deputy Minister of Children and Youth Services; Grand Chief Harvey Yesno of the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation; Leon Jourdain of the Lac La Croix First Nation;
Richard Ouellet, Wabnode of the Centre for Aboriginal Services of Cambrian Collage, President Jim Madder of Confederation College; and President Clement Chartier of the Métis National Council.
Other key addressed at the three day assembly included updates on current Métis rights litigation from Métis rights lawyers Jean Teillet and Jason Madden. They reported on implications of recent Métis law cases including the Manitoba Metis Federation Supreme Court victory and the Daniels case, which although recently upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal may be appealed to the Supreme Court.
MNO citizens also heard on the MNO’s ongoing work improving opportunities for Métis children and youth. The MNO operates numerous programs that provide educational support, employment training as well as other programs that help parents and caregivers provide their children with healthy lifestyles. President Lipinski challenged all MNO citizens to encourage and support young people in believing in themselves so they would seize every possible opportunity. “This is an area where we can all play a role,” explained President Lipinski, “by providing support, especially those not getting support, we can help Métis youth become all they can be.”
The AGA also featured numerous cultural events and performances including evening entertainment featuring Métis singers and dancers. Delegates enjoyed an afternoon at Chippewa Park where they enjoyed Métis crafts and participated in the Métis Voyageur Games, a series of athletic competitions based on the historic activities of their Métis ancestors. The MNO also presented one of its long-time citizens Senator Bob Mckay, with the Suzanne Rochon-Burnett Volunteer of the Year Award.