A little inquiry into a persistent problem.
Despite the fact that the internet has been doing its very best in the past 48 hours to fill me with feminist rage by telling me about stories like the guy who was acquitted of rape after using the “I tripped and fell into her vagina” defense or the Ohio politicians who are trying to make it mandatory for women who have an abortion or a miscarriage to cremate or bury the resulting fetal tissue, I’m going to stick to my original plan and tell you about something good that happened in the world recently. (Because I’m still me, “good” in this case” means “rectifying thirty years of absolute terribleness,” but you gotta take what you can get. It’s hard out there for a feminist.)
Canadian Prime Minister and really, really, really, really ridiculously good looking human Justin Trudeau has pledged to launch an inquiry into the nearly 1,200 indigenous women and girls who have been killed or gone missing in Canada the last thirty years. Now, because many of you dear readers are American like me, and our state of constant violence has totally skewered our sense of what “normal” death counts should be, this number may not seem very large for a thirty-year period. That is because our souls are dark and bleak and we don’t know what reality should be like anymore. But it is vital to keep in mind the way that this figure shows the disproportionate amounts of violence that Canada’s indigenous women face. As Jessica Murphy reports, “Indigenous women make up just 4% of Canada’s female population but 16% of all women murdered in the country. First Nations, Inuit and Metis women are three times more likely to report experiencing violence.” I’m no math major, but I can tell that these are obviously very troubling figures.
Now, to be a realistic downer for a second, the fact that this is an inquiry may or may not mean much in the long run. Two non-governmental inquiries have actually already happened, one in 1996 and one in 2012. The two inquiries resulted in “hundreds of recommendations already put forward but never applied.” Hopefully instead of reworking the ground that the previous inquiries have already covered, the new inquiry will use these existing works as a starting point. And hopefully once the inquiry is done, the government will actually, you know, do something to address the problem. In any case, the fact that a governmental inquiry will exist at all is a marked improvement over the responses of the previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which was basically to say “lalalalala I can’t hear you lalalalala.” Or in his exact words, ‘“… it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest.’” I feel like he and Donald Trump should hang out. They’re both such swell guys.
Ideally, this inquiry will (A) help solve a long-lasting problem of indigenous women not receiving justice for the crimes committed against them and (B) help mend some (understandably) unstable fences between the Canadian government and Canada’s indigenous population. It is too late to save the nearly 1200 indigenous women who are already dead or missing. But if the inquiry is able to actually address some of the problems that allowed these tragedies to occur, then hopefully fewer indigenous women will be victimized in the future. And hey, maybe if the inquiry is effective, our own government will be inspired to also address the alarmingly high rates of sexual violence experienced by Native American women in the US.
Hey, a girl can dream.
Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not discussing small moves toward the equitable treatment of women and minorities, she studies gender in popular culture.