Hello, they call me Blue Thunderbird Woman/ Strong Medicine Woman Standing. I am Nekaway with Cree, Dakota, and Anishinabae blood from the Lynx Clan located in Long Plain Manitoba. My colonial name is Lisa Yellow-Quill; and I am the Aboriginal Women’s Program Co- Manager for Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is a Feminist non –profit organization that employs women from around the world, reflecting our value for balance, inclusivity and wholeness. We have been in existence for thirty-two years providing education, advocacy, and support services including system advocacy and law reform to women experiencing violence, with a priority to end violence against women in all it insidious forms.

I will be speaking to the root causes of violence against women that have resulted in more than 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal Women across Turtle Island together with the need for socio-political accountability for the healing of women, their families, and their communities. This oration is a concerted position BWSS has taken to stand with our sisters who speak today, and who have spoken before us. Our position is straight: We believe inaction maintains the status quo of Violence against women; we want action.

I ask creator and the grandmothers to come and speak through me, so that these words I speak are felt in your core of being, and reverberate to the cores of those ones in authority to take serious the issue of Violence against Aboriginal Women.

We, Battered Women’s Support Services, acknowledge we are on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and ask the grandmothers to bless our work today with the courage, the clarity and the words that will lead to actions that end violence against Aboriginal Women.

We know that continued state research on Aboriginal Women without action is further causing violence in our lives. We, further acknowledge that by participating in this research initiative, delivered by Status of Women Canada, we could possibly be implicated as co-conspirators or perpetrators in the on-going objectification and co-optation of Aboriginal Women, and their experiences, for financial gain and political masturbation if this research results in mere band-aid solutions.

We know that continued research initiatives without action are false promises. There is a wealth of research material from government, academia to grassroots’ Front Line Workers that has provided documentation naming the root causes and various forms of Violence against Aboriginal Women. They are Imperialism, Patriarchy, Sexism, Colonization, and now Globalization

In addition, in Vancouver women demonstrate the enormity of this issue by raising consciousness via the BWSS’s initiative the Violence Stops Here Campaign, which is training developed to invites men’s accountability in ending violence against women, the Walk for Justice, the DTES Smudge Ceremony and the February 14th Women’s Memorial March, which promote individual and community healing to name a few.

At a National level in 1996 there was a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), which  gave a whole account, in volumes, of root causes resulting in violence against Aboriginal Women; the report by Amnesty International called Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada is another, and in Black Eyes all The Time (2004), Anne McGillivray and Brenda Comaskey address root causes and provide recommendations in a clear and concise way on issues of intimate violence, Aboriginal Women, and the justice system.

Resultantly, we know the Canadian State is familiar with the issues relating to violence against Aboriginal Women, as it is the patriarchal state that initiates, maintains and perpetuates the objectification, stratification, normalization, racialization, invisibalization, sexualization, marginalization, criminalization institutionalization, hospitalization, and colonization which in the end  may result in the cremation of women in this country, because they are so badly beaten by their partners and/or the systems in society

To us, it is overtly exemplified in the Eurocentric feeling of land entitlement demonstrated by the public and private spheres of economic and political entities. I am speaking to the rape of our Mother the Earth.

Our main concerns at this time are the issue of paternalistic racism inherent in socio-political institutions and legislation; lack of education and resources for urban and rural Aboriginal Women; and gaps in the Justice System together with jurisdictional barriers.

Action Items:

  • We want Action: Because women make up 52% of the Canadian population we want the Ministry of Women and Equality reinstated in British Colombia and in place in all provinces. For the record, there is no longer any ministry that says women in their name.
  • We want Action: we want Women named on every agenda, and their voices included in all of Canada and its provinces planning and decision making process.
  • We want Action: we are asking for socio-political attitudinal change.
  • We want Action: We want the focus of Women’s experience of violence placed on the perpetrator, and not the woman. Too often women are blamed and pathologized for the violence they experience.
  • We want Action: We want structural change in government, law enforcement, and other institutions maintain the status quo of gender inequality.
  • We want Action: Battered Women’s Support Services calls for anti-violence services rooted in historical understandings of colonial violence and informed by Aboriginal women.
  • We want Action: We support Native Women’s Association of Canada’s call for Reduction of Violence, Reduction of Poverty, Reduction of Homelessness and Access to Housing, Improved Access to Justice and the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium’s call for Victim Prevention, Community Development and Support, Emergency Planning and Response, Victim Family and Counseling Support.

Status of Women Canada and the House of Commons have been relatively silent; notwithstanding this meeting. Violence against women has to be a national priority in ending violence on every level of society with all institutions mobilizing the efforts that are on the ground right now. We have been doing this support without support.

Finally, I will repeat the words of Chief Robert Pasco from Merritt, British Columbia “whatever the words of your final report and recommendations may be, they will mean little if they are not met with the political will, the knowledge and the ability to achieve their intent”. Furthermore, in the section How to Begin in the highlights taken from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (1996) it is said “Change of this magnitude cannot be achieved by piecemeal reform of existing programs and services – however helpful any one of these reforms might be. It will take an act of national intention – a major, symbolic statement of intent, accompanied by the laws necessary to turn intentions into action” (RCAP, 1996. How to Begin).