Missing and Murdered Women

The REDress project is often called the Red Dress project, which while accurate, takes away from the play. To redress is to compensate, or to fix; providing a remedy for some ailment caused. Jaime Black, whose epithets always involve being ‘Winnipeg-based,’ started the project of hanging red dresses in public locations to bring attention to the “estimated 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada” in the last thirty years (Toronto Life).

1,200 is the lowest estimate. The NWAC, or Native Women’s Association of Canada, argues that the number is closer to 4,000.

The reasons behind this disparity vary. One accusation holds that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police too often dismiss murders as suicides or drug-related deaths, even as relatives insist that there was “foul play” (New York Times). Similar charges of police oversight are suggested in a 2015 United Nations report on the treatment of aboriginal women by the government of Canada.

Yet there has been little redress. Along the stretch of road called the Highway of Tears, infamous for the amount of women who go missing, still lacks effective lighting or readily available public transportation to dissuade the prevalence of hitchhiking.

The reason for the impoverished state of aboriginal women in Canada has been tied to several sources, one of which was the residential schooling system we discussed in class. The forcible relocation of children in indigenous communities did not fully stop until the mid-1990s, and this is credited with helping to destroy “the social fabric of aboriginal society” (Cultural Survival).

Canada was not alone in the boarding school system. The United States employed this tactic as well, late into the 1970s, and has even less transparency regarding information on missing and murdered women. Native communities in the United States have a similar distrust of the police, and it is readily apparent why.

Take the case of  Edith Chavez. When Chavez went to the police after being abducted, the officers “refused to take [her] statement,” instead deciding to arrest Chavez on the charge of an parking violation years prior. After Chavez’s release, the department released a statement “claiming Chavez smelled of alcohol and had been to a casino” (The Guardian, full story here).

Not to mention that the rates of murder inflicted on indigenous women in the United States is still atrociously high. What steps should we take to redress?

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