We live in a world where 1,200 of our Indigenous daughters, mothers, sisters, aunties and friends have gone missing or been murdered since 1980. A world where our justice, health and social service systems are failing these women and girls every single day.
Our missing and murdered women deserve more, and we need to continue to demand more for them. Whether solutions look like an inquiry, improved access to services, or an inside look at our justice system – what we do know is that the status quo is failing.
In our demands for improved outcomes, we need every advocate and ally we can find who is willing to stand with us. We need a chorus of people – Indigenous and Canadian alike – from coast to coast, supporting solutions for this vital work.
What we don’t need, however, is an abuser attempting to rebuild his damaged reputation by attaching himself to this cause.
Last week, suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau announced he was looking to volunteer with the Assembly of First Nations or the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples on critical issues in Indigenous communities, including missing and murdered women.
We know that many of our women go missing or are murdered as a result of domestic and sexual violence. Indigenous women in Canada are three times more likely than non-Indigenous women to report being a victim of a sexual crime and four times more likely to be murdered.
Meanwhile, Brazeau himself has been charged with sexual assault, assault, uttering threats and more, and will face trial at the end of March.
While I understand that Mr. Brazeau has a right to his day in court, and I believe in the rehabilitative nature of volunteer work, I find it seriously troubling that as an accused abuser, he thinks it is appropriate to advocate for and work with victims and their families. Our women and girls and their families need safe, sacred spaces to heal in. Bringing someone accused of violence and still undergoing rehabilitative work into those safe spaces is dangerous and hypocritical.
If Mr. Brazeau truly cared for our missing and murdered women and their families he would instead focus his efforts on healing and ending violence inwards, and not out in the community where his presence could cause further harm to those who have already lost so much.
The safety and healing of victims and their families must be paramount throughout any work we do in this area. We must not allow abusers to lead solutions when they themselves are directly contributing to underlying problems.
AIAI is mandated as a Provincial Territorial Organization (PTO) to defend and enhance the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of our seven member First Nations. Our member nations include: Batchewana First Nation, Caldwell First Nation, Delaware Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and the Wahta Mohawks. Learn more at www.aiai.on.ca, on Twitter @AIAI_comms and on Facebook.