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The strange case of the missing Aboriginal women

by Garth Stevenson:

If you live in Canada and have not recently returned from a long sabbatical on another planet, you have probably heard the phrase missing Aboriginal women more often than you wished to hear it. If you drove along Highway 401 in eastern Ontario you could even see a billboard placed by the local Aboriginal band referring to the “missing women.” If you took the train from Toronto to Montreal instead of driving, you may have learned about them in a different way. On more than one occasion the passenger train service between our two largest cities has been suspended because the Aboriginals blocked the Canadian National’s main line in an effort to force the government to launch an “inquiry” into the alleged disappearances. People who are into this issue often allege that more than a thousand, or even “thousands,” of Aboriginal women have mysteriously disappeared.

There is something very Canadian about the belief that social problems, real or imaginary, can be solved by the government conducting an inquiry. Our national addiction to Royal Commissions, task forces and so forth is well known. But the demand for an inquiry into this particular matter seems to have acquired an unusually large and vociferous following. Amnesty International, an organization that used to specialize in helping people who were imprisoned for their religious or political beliefs, has made the “missing” women one of its major priorities for the last several months, although situations closer to its original terms of reference are certainly not in short supply these days. Both of the major opposition parties in Parliament have called on the federal government to conduct an inquiry into missing Aboriginal women. The provincial premiers, always happy to find a stick with which to beat the federal government, have done the same, joined by a large part of the media. 

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About the Author

Garth Stevenson
Garth Stevenson is Professor of Political Science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and a frequent contributor to Inroads.


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