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Nation State Responses to Violence Against Indigenous Women I would like to acknowledge the traditional caretakers of this land, the ancestors, all women.

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Presentation on theme: "Nation State Responses to Violence Against Indigenous Women I would like to acknowledge the traditional caretakers of this land, the ancestors, all women."— Presentation transcript:

1 Nation State Responses to Violence Against Indigenous Women I would like to acknowledge the traditional caretakers of this land, the ancestors, all women everywhere, especially those recovering from violence & Mother Earth herself. Kinanskomitin Hai hai Marsee Thank you! A Presentation by Dr. Cathy Richardson GROOTS Canada United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Thursday, May 21, 2009 1

2 Women who are victims of violence deserve to have their voices heard. By capturing truthfully their stories and acknowledging their responses and resistance to these violent acts, you are ensuring that their heroic acts are recognized and most importantly that they will begin to see themselves as victors and not victims. When women are thriving, the community becomes a better place. There is no better place to start than touching their spirit in a meaningful way to redeem and restore their dignity after it has been robbed from them through violence and abuse. Kate Wilson, Ghanain Shelter Worker, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Canada 2

3 This work is based on: Community development & activism Program consultation & development addressing violence in Metis and Urban Aboriginal Families, Islands of Safety Talking with First Nations and Metis women in Canada, on Vancouver Island and in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories who have experienced violence Research on violence, resistance & the power of language Collaboration with Dr. Allan Wade and Dr. Linda Coates Linking Metis violence prevention initiatives to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007) and The Amnesty Report on the Stolen Sisters (2004) 3

4 Articles That Protect Indigenous Women From Violence Article 21 states that Indigenous people have the right to the improvement of their economic and social conditions. States shall take effective measures to improve economic and social conditions, especially towards elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities, both individually and collectively Addressing conditions of poverty and want decrease vulnerability, provide options for Indigenous women, make available housing and multiple forms of safety and opportunity 4

5 Article 2 relates to non-discrimination Article 3 relates to self-determination Article 22 states that Indigenous women and men shall enjoy full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination Article 7 relates to right to life, physical and mental integrity and security of the person Article 24 relates to the right to health, including traditional medicine and the role of women Article 43 relates to the provision of minimal standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples Article 44 states that all rights and freedoms are guaranteed to both Indigenous women and men 5

6 Other Rights Embedded in Law Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 35.4 of the Canadian constitution also guarantee equality for men and women under the law 6

7 Key Points of Framework for Presentation 1) The importance of acknowledging and eliciting the resistance of Indigenous women, and their responses to violence 2) The need for dignity and safety in every preventative and supportive interaction 3) The importance of contesting language use that: 1) conceals violence 2) conceals resistance 3) mitigates perpetrator responsibility 4) blames victims 4) The importance of language use that: 1) clarifies violence 2) clarifies resistance 3) clarifies responsibility 4) does not blame victims (See research of Coates & Wade, 2002, 2004) 7

8 Language Is Used To Conceal Violence Language is used to talk about violence that performs four functions (The Four Operations of Language: Coates & Wade): 1) minimizes or conceals violence 2) conceals perpetrator responsibility 3) conceals resistance & responses to violence 4) shifts the blame to the victim When we examine our history and speak with women who have been harmed, it is clear that we always respond to and resist violence in some way. Whenever people are mistreated, they always resist in some way (Allan Wade, 1997) 8

9 5) Human responses are not effects, they involve agency, dignity and human spirit. Listing and treating effects individualizes and depoliticizes social issues, blaming victims for the violence. 6) The scope of resistance, the medicine wheel of resistance... Any act spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual that signifies opposition to violence (e.g. Tears, despair, safety analysis, calling out, running away, staying, longing). 7) Clear language – the need for understanding and naming Who is doing what to whom, avoiding mutualization, euphemisms, passive & agentless constructions, an absent perpetrator. 8) The application of prior and informed consent to medical and psychological diagnoses after violence (e.g. Clinical depression) and the implications of having a mental health record in Canada. 9

10 Negative Social Responses to Indigenous Women in Canada in Relation to Violence We have currently 520 Indigenous women disappeared or murdered in Canada (Beverly Jacobs, Voices of Our Sisters in Spirit, NWA, Amnesty International Stolen Sisters, 2004) High rates of suicide, Indigenous women, youth, gay/lesbien/bi/trans, often if not always related to the violence they have experienced and the lack of a positive social response, and the absence of justice to the violence Mothers blamed for violence against them, in Failure to Protect child welfare legislation System-wide racism and lack of information and training on working with Indigenous women for safety enhancement. 10

11 Creating Open Season Towards Indigenous Women Federal offloading – The Federal Government is responsible for upholding Treaties and services to Status Indians The restructuring of jurisdiction gave more power to the provinces who do not uphold federal responsibilities towards Indigenous people – people caught in the cracks Lack of attention to poverty and programming (e.g. No programs for men who perpetrate violence at all, the few that exist lack accountability towards Indigenous women) The courts and their failure to create safety for victims of violence, with a focus on the perpetrator, difficulty in getting charges through or sentencing relevant to the crimes Restraining orders not enforced until broken 11

12 Language Concerns -When you conceal resistance, you are concealing the nature and brutality of the violence -The problem is moved from the social world to the mind of the victim (e.g. Psychologization, medicalizing, diagnosing, institutionalizing) -Where no perpetrator is named (e.g. The Canadian Apology), the victim becomes the problem to be fixed -Language usage can deflect from the lack of social justice and recast the problem, thus renaming genocide or colonial invasion 12

13 Violence is Hidden By Using... Passive and agentless constructions (e.g. A hit happened, terrible things were done), the missing perpetrator Mutualizing unilateral acts (an attack becomes a conflict, a dispute, domestic violence, ) Obscuring who did what to whom Nominalizations (changing verbs to nouns) the absence of an apology has been difficult for Aboriginal people Romanticization/Eroticization Abstractions, generalizations, psychological formulations The Four Operations of Language that hide the truth 13

14 The Government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation, said Prime Minister Harper. Years of work by survivors, communities and Aboriginal organizations culminated in an Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These are the foundations of a new relationship between Aboriginal people and other Canadians, a relationship based on knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us. Who neglected to apologize? (nominalization) Implies equality, two equally wronged parties. (mutualization) Not cast as acts of resistance against violence or federal inaction, but decontextualized as work (euphemism) Cast as a relationship problem, not a violence or genocide problem. (euphemism, mutualization) Shared history or colonial violence and European invasion? The problem is recast as a lack of Indigenous respect. (mutualization) No mention of social justice or enacting federal responsibility to protect Indigenous women from violence. The problem is cast as a lack of understanding, not an appetite for land, resources and wealth on the part of Canada. 14

15 Recommendations The Federal Government of Canada must adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Clear language must be used in talking about violence, clarifying who is doing what to whom and identifying responsibility for safety Accounts of resistance and responses to violence must be documented as key indicators of the brutality and levels of violence System and program reform must be oriented towards the particular safety needs of Indigenous women and their families Orchestrated positive social responses are crucial for according safety and dignity for Indigenous women in Canada 15

16 Thank You For Your Commitments To Address Social Justice and Violence Against Indigenous Women Worldwide, Hai hai! Cathy Richardson GROOTS Canada 2268 W 37 th, Vancouver BC. V6M 1P1 Dr. Richardson, Indigenous School of Social Work, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 1700, Victoria, B.C. V8W 2Y2, 250-721- 7211 Centre for Response-Based Practice, 201 – 312 Festubert St, Duncan, B.C. V9L 3T1 16

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