Red Deer’s Red Feather Women helped celebrate Earth Day this spring in Centennial Park. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer’s Red Feather Women hope this inquiry will make a difference

Group calls on Canada to enact the 231 changes needed to end the ‘genocide’ of Indigenous women

The founder of Red Deer’s Red Feather Women had her worst fears confirmed this week when a national inquiry found 231 changes were needed to end the “genocide” against Indigenous women.

Theresa “Corky” Larsen-Jonasson has long suspected that Canada’s system of dealing with First Nations, Metis and Inuit people was “pretty broken.” She feels this has now been affirmed by the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The inquiry released findings on Monday that aim dozens of new “calls for justice” at a full spectrum of national institutions — from the police and the courts to social services and the health care system.

Hundreds of similar recommendations came out of dozens of past inquiries, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but “nothing has gotten better. Nothing,” said Larsen-Jonasson, who feels most of these changes were not put into action.

Murder rates for Indigenous, Metis and Inuit women are six times higher than non-Indigenous women and have grown to 24 per cent of all female homicides in 2015, from 9 per cent in 1980.

The community elder feels there’s a need at this point to “stop to consider accountability.”

All Canadians need to help end genocide

Trudeau accepts findings

Larsen-Jonasson noted Canada already has laws for punishing murderers and abusers — why then are so many cases of missing aboriginal women still going unsolved?

She wonders why aboriginal offenders are still disproportionally represented among the prison population, while non-Indigenous men found guilty of murdering Indigenous women still get comparatively lighter sentences?

A 2013 murder trial held in Red Deer after the body of Talia Meguinis was found in a recycling dumpster ended with 28-year-old Nathan Desharnais pleading guilty of second-degree murder. His plea came after a full weight of evidence was provided by an expert who positively identified images in recovered photos that had been previously deleted from the suspect’s phone.

Larsen-Jonasson wonders why this kind of collaborative effort by police and prosecutors and groups, such as the Red Feather Women, who provided support to the victim’s family, can’t be co-ordinated to help bring other cases of missing or murdered to resolution?

She knows aboriginal women face larger societal problems caused by historic trauma and family division. According to a statement by the local Red Feather Women, the Canadian government created the crisis of missing Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ, two spirited, questioning, intersex and asexual people because of historic wrongs.

Denial of heritage, religion, identity and other human rights has led Indigenous people to this crisis point. Can the government then be counted on to help resolve it?

Larson-Jonasson isn’t sure whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can be believed when he promises to take action. But she hopes Canadian people will help hold him and other politicians accountable to make these changes happen, beyond election time.

The Red Feather Women are calling on all levels of government, communities and individuals to enact the 231 calls for justice as recommended by the inquiry.

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