Originally published as a column on Friday July 22, 2016 in NewsKamloops.
Few things are more disappointing than not keeping a promise. More so when the promise has to do with people who died under circumstances that ought to be investigated so justice can be served. More so when the people who died are all First Nations Canadian women, the majority of them under 45 and mothers.
On our recent trip to Prince Rupert we drove on the Highway of Tears and the overall feeling is one of uneasiness and sadness. There are big billboards warning women of the dangers of hitchhiking. As you stop along the way in some of the small towns, there are signs that grief has touched that community.
And yet… The promised inquiry into the death of murdered and missing Aboriginal women is still far from becoming a reality. It’s not a promise that should be made lightly. Our new PM Justin Trudeau has a full agenda, no doubt about that. But a promise is a promise, and when closure of some sort is at stake, then the promise should be kept.
The numbers are staggering, the grief and pain left in the hearts of the families who are still waiting for answers are too. British Columbia has the highest numbers of missing and murdered First Nations women, 160 of them. Approximately 63 percent are murder cases and 24 percent missing persons cases. The majority of them were between 19 and 31 years old, and 16 percent under the age of 18.
Each of those young women was someone’s daughter, granddaughter or sister before they had a chance to become mothers. One could argue that sadly enough, the system failed many of them before they were born. After all, the drug and alcohol addictions among First Nations people are rampant. So is domestic abuse. A vicious circle that chews up many lives leaving but grieving survivors and unanswered questions.
Which is where the government comes in. the authority that can say enough is enough, vioplence againt women (by strangers in most cases) is not condoned anymore and we will not only find what happened to these women and girls but also work closely with First Nations leaders and communities to educate, protect and offer a way out to those whose are in danger of being mangled by that vicious circle that indifference, political (in)correctness and plain old feet-dragging enable.
It is shameful to not hear the plight of those left behind. And yet…Let’s hope the many questions will be answered soon. Let’s hope that dignity and justice will take their place where they rightfully belong.
I might hear soon that the topics I’ve been writing on are depressing. Or just on the brink of sadness. True enough, yet sadness that crushes many or even a few cannot be ignored. Ideally, we should all be so happy that we’d burst at the seams.
By caring and lending a few minutes and a few thoughts to the side of life that is ungraceful as it is scary, we make it less dark for the ones whose hearts are pounding and crying at the same time. Compassion makes us all better. It’s in giving that part of ourselves which is so vulnerable in the face of suffering that we are afraid to show, that makes us better human beings.
So here’s the answer. For as long as there are indignities and pain, I will bring them up, as many as I can. Some will be screaming louder than others at me. Suffering does not know boundaries. It should not. Yet the case of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women shows that race boundaries exist, though many pretend to not see them.
It’s not negativity to bring these things up but respect for humanity and all its dark and bright bits. It’s not negativity to bring them up in conversations but the hope that one day communities can be safe for all who are part of them.
It’s by letting myself be humbled by people’s strength to carry on after tragedies and heartbreaks that I can be a better person and see beyond my immediate world. That is why I think promises should be kept. Because people matter. Every single one of them.