The thousands of women and girls who have been murdered or lost in Canada in recent decades are the victims of a “genocide”. So it says in a report that was made public in Quebec today.
In both the United States and Canada, women from the countries’ indigenous peoples have disappeared or been murdered to a much greater extent than women in the rest of the population. 1,200 indigenous women and girls have been murdered or disappeared in Canada between 1980 and 2012, according to Canadian police estimates.
According to the report released today, the actual figure is probably considerably higher.
“I wear this piece of jewelry to honor all the girls who have disappeared,” said Verna Paulson, one of the speakers during the report release ceremony.
It is six times more common for a woman from the indigenous population to be murdered compared to women in the rest of the Canadian population. It is also more common for them not to know the perpetrator.
The causes are several, but according to the report, the sum of the sexism and racism suffered by indigenous women has made them a particularly vulnerable group.
“The hard truth is that the laws and institutions” in Canada “fuel violations against human rights so to a degree that constitute a genocide of indigenous women” says the report.
In both the United States and Canada, regions with a high proportion of indigenous people are often rich in natural resources. When companies exploit resources, temporary camps are created by male workers in those regions, which may have contributed to the violence against indigenous women.
“Colonial structures made the genocide possible,” writes the report authors, “there are wars in this country and indigenous women are under siege”.