Violence against Indigenous women is a public health crisis, summit hears

Event hosted by the Native Women’s Association of Canada

Nunavut singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark is seen in Feb. 2018 giving testimony to the MMIWG inquiry. She spoke on Monday to a Canadian summit on violence against Indigenous women. (File photo/CPAC screenshot)

By Sarah Rogers

Violence against Indigenous women is a public health crisis and governments should respond to it as such, a UN representative told a summit on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Monday.

Anita Bhatia, deputy executive director of UN Women, told the Canadian conference that it’s taken a global pandemic to draw attention to the issue.

Bhatia recited UN statistics that estimate one in three Indigenous women have been sexually assaulted or faced some other form of intimate partner violence.

“And yet, we’re not at the point in this world where we can call this a public health crisis and treat it accordingly,” Bhatia told the International Summit of the Americas on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

The event is being hosted online Monday and Tuesday by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

“There is an important and urgent need for a concerted effort,” Bhatia told the summit.

“We already knew these rates are alarming. The pandemic has just made it much, much worse.”

UN Women, a United Nations entity that focuses on gender equality and the empowerment of women, is urging governments to prioritize violence against women in their COVID-19 responses.

“Not enough governments are doing enough to focus on violence against women,” Bhatia said.

Governments also need more data and more Indigenous women leadership to tackle the issue, she added.

Another summit participant, Indigenous rights lawyer Sherri Mitchell from Penobscot Nation in Maine, countered Bhatia’s comments.

“Every single woman in my generation was assaulted, so that one in three statistic is not accurate,” Mitchell told the summit.

“It’s not a public health crisis, it’s systemic colonial government strategy. We have a responsibility for each other.”

Nunavut singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark made brief introductory remarks at the summit on Monday, speaking about her own recovery from trauma and abuse.

“My greatest challenge was overcoming emotional fear,” she said.

“Understanding it was a big step towards addressing it. I think we need to spend a lot more time understanding the emotional effects of trauma on all of us.”

Aglukark will perform her new song Forgiveness at the summit on Tuesday. You can tune into the event through a livestream on this Facebook page.

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bilbo Carpetbaggins on

    I’d be curious to hear this explained:

    “It’s not a public health crisis, it’s systemic colonial government strategy.”

    This sounds more hyperbolic than believable or serious to me, but i’m opening to hearing more.

    • Posted by iThink on

      These kinds of statements are perplexing to me too. The best I can do to make sense of them is to remember that they are goal oriented. There are incentives not only to capture grab attention but most importantly, to get a desired result.

      To suggest that abuse and violence against Indigenous women is literally a “strategy” by the government should be plainly seen as an absurdity. The real ‘strategy,’ it would seem, is emotional extortion and it knows few bounds in its capacity to distort and poison our conversations.

      • Posted by wake up on

        I totally agree with your statement. It is this same approach being used by black lives matter, cancel culture and woke culture.

      • Posted by Consistency on

        Why couldn’t it be a “Strategy”? there were meetings where White men sat around a table and thought of ways to get the Savage out of the Native and produced papers on it. so why not also possible meeting and thinking of ways to keep women down. and even if it did have papers it could be a case of ‘well if this or that is done to a women then there is no issues’.
        Have you heard of “Rule of Thumb” that was a time that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick as long as it was not thicker then his thumb. it was a law that was thought about and followed.
        Many people have done terrible things to other people and still do. All cultures, everywhere. This does not mean it is right for any of them and does not mean it should not be addressed for ALL.

        • Posted by Friendly Advice on

          Hi friend, please consider slowing down and thinking through your points, organize them into a coherent sequence and try to connect them to what has been said. Good luck!

  2. Posted by Inconvenient on

    The large majority of murder and domestic abuse victims know their attacker.
    The inconvenient truth is that the largest number of people attacking inuit women are inuit men.

    • Posted by jn on

      Making it sound like it’s an Inuit issue, it’s a global issue. Not just Inuit men abuse Inuit women, it’s any race abusing women and men and children.

      • Posted by Yes true to all races but on

        Yes all races have abusers. But, we’re talking about Inuit or indigenous here not all races. Let’s keep on the subject of indigenous issues.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      your not wrong… but that does not keep the issue from being important. There needs to be stricter consequences for anyone that victimizes a women. I think if past trauma is to be used a a defense for an abuser then they should have to charge the one that abused them, with NO limitation on time. Dont care how old or important they are to the community or church, gov, or Canada. Bring it all down.

      • Posted by No blame game on

        You trying to make an excuse for an abuser by going back generations. If someone is already dead, what do you do then, still excuse the updated abuser? No matter what happened to you, you don’t have to continue the abuse. By placing blame stretching out across time, only excuses the action. If we as a people could do just that , we would all be excused from our crimes. We are all products of the past, but we still have choices intacted, unless it’s a mental illness, but it’s an illness also that if hurting someone is the case, it’s still hurt, and needs addressing. Blame no one for your actions but you.

    • Posted by Pleasant Day To You on

      This is not statistically backed. Domestic violence is not what MMIW is primarily talking about. That’s a different issue. We are discussing individuals being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery or human trafficking . . . Etc – even in the US, this is a very tall issue for women and children in the Native communities as well as for new immigrats. I do understand, the article mentions both and does not make clear distinction, however, combining these concepts and using it to demune a situation about kidnapping, rape and murder by saying a variation of you know your attacker and he is also Native American is really not cool. I also agree the colonialism statement seems far fetched, however, lumping the concepts together and comparing the MMIW crisis to marriage disputes and creating false facts about where it comes from is absolutely is not okay either.

  3. Posted by Taparti on

    Colonial, colonial, colonial…

    I’m an alcoholic who got help and got a good job. first dibs on government jobs without education is there. Just have to apply.

    small pleasures for small minds. Put on your adult pants and take ownership.

  4. Posted by Colonial on

    Yes it was clearly a colonial strategy by the government to encourage and reward indigenous men for assaulting and harming women. Right.
    In all likelihood the predisposition of Inuit men assaulting Inuit women had always existed. It is too common in every culture. But according to these people life on the open tundra was some sort of utopia.

    • Posted by Sir Toppam Hatt on

      I agree with a lot here, but would be careful with the framing it as the “predisposition of Inuit men [to] assault… Inuit women”.

      It is undoubtedly true that human peoples around the world have throughout history treated each other badly, I am less sure of the extent to which culture is a variable. Your point sounds this way though I suspect you don’t intend it that way.

  5. Posted by Young man on

    Yes! Also please don’t forget violence against indigenous men too, the number of murdered and missing indigenous men are the highest yet very rarely spoken of.
    We can’t work to fix one problem and ignore the rest.

    • Posted by People Poser on

      Do you haveany stats or info on that?

      • Posted by Young man on

        Yes there are some stats that show indigenous men go missing and murdered at a higher rate than woman but for some reason men are being ignored.

        I don’t understand why men even though at a higher rate of being murdered and going missing are being ignored,
        MMIW needs to be more inclusive and representative based on the stats to be more meaningful to address the terrible situation indigenous people are going through together. It’s not a competition for one side being treated worse than the other, everyone men or women are in the same boat and we need to work together.

        • Posted by No Moniker on

          Interesting and thanks for bringing this up. I studied under Adam Jones as an undergrad and recall him making similar comparisons in other contexts, basically outlining what he said in this piece

          “I think it gets at some very deep stereotypes in our culture — of the vulnerable, helpless woman and child. There’s some deeper cultural biases that need to be reckoned there.”

          Absolutely true…

          A good example of this, Hillary Clinton speaking at a domestic violence conference once said “Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.” – Let’s all think about that for a few seconds at least.

        • Posted by Wow! on

          I think this is a eye opener for a lot of people, we never hear much about indigenous men going missing or murdered, its crazy the level or the amount that do!

          Where is the support and the review for these missing and murdered men?

  6. Posted by TGC on

    Thinking for one’s self is the way to live your life. Respect this with others, be gracious in word and deed. When confronted with issues requiring help find it, persevere until you know you are being treated well and fair. Do not surrender to abuse in any manner.

  7. Posted by Jj on

    Not just women, what about the men that suffer mental and physical abuse from women? Need to better teach that no means no. And not to harras till getting the wanted answer. Also need to learn that drunk means no conscent. Canadian law.
    This is where woman benefit because men are less likely to bring assult from a woman to court, while the woman plays innocent. I liked that article that sais ‘lies protect no one.’ Women also tell men not to tell other people of the assult to protect themselves.

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