Missing women can't be ignored

The Leader-Post

Thursday, August 25, 2005

In Brief: Society must do something to address First Nations' concerns that aboriginal women are too often victims of crime.

In the wake of troubling cases of missing aboriginal women, it's little wonder that First Nations groups in Saskatchewan are expressing anxiety.

The Regina advocacy and counseling group Women of the Dawn and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) raised the issue at separate news conferences Tuesday.

"This place, right now, is not a safe place," Women of the Dawn founder Ivy Kennedy women told reporters in Regina. Meanwhile, FSIN third vice-chief Delbert Wapass told a Saskatoon audience he knew of "mothers, sisters and daughters who want to go for their daily run, but can't because they don't feel safe."

It's not just the case of two missing women, aged 19 and 24 -- and the unsolved disappearance of six-year-old Tamra Keepness, who vanished from her Regina home more than a year ago -- that is causing concern. Other examples include:

- The brutal 1995 beating death of 28-year-old Pamela George on a grid road outside Regina by two white university students later convicted of manslaughter. Both Steven Kummerfield and Alexander Ternowetsky were released after less than five years in jail;

- The murder of three Saskatoon aboriginal women in the 1990s by a man who had already served jail time for the manslaughter of an aboriginal woman in Alberta in the 1980s.

- The unsolved murders of several aboriginal women in the Edmonton area since the late 1980s.

- The disappearance of more than 60 Vancouver women in the 1990s -- many of them aboriginal. Pig farmer Robert Pickton has been charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder.

First Nations leaders say too little police and media attention is focused on aboriginal women when they go missing or suffer harm. Sherry Lewis, executive director of the Native Women's Association of Canada, summed up the feelings of many in May when she said: "There's a perception out there that we're easy targets, and that nothing will happen to you if you decide to cause us harm."

Poverty, family dysfunction and addictions place aboriginal women at significant risk of violence at home. Others are lured into the sex trade to be victimized again.

The roll call of tragedy demands a much better response from ALL of society in a) bringing those responsible to justice and b) making life better for First Nations women.

 The Leader-Post (Regina) 2005

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Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016