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Trigger Alert!

As you read this you should know that I began my journey to Cuba last week, and as I sit here in my room writing another chapter of my book about murdered and missing Indigenous women, I find myself thinking about how safe I feel here, more so than in my own country, one of the world’s most desired places to seek refuge and call home. Unless you are Indigenous!

I’m also reflecting on my recent journey here, specifically, my drive to Toronto and how unsafe I felt in parts of New Brunswick and Quebec.

You see in Cuba I don’t have to worry about being targeted because my truck has Indigenous markings or because I have sweetgrass and eagle feathers hanging from the rearview mirror. Here, I don’t have to worry whether someone will have an issue with my Indigenously inspired tattoos. Here, I don’t get dirty looks for wearing my moccasins into a store or public space.

It can be a bit nerve-wracking travelling alone across Canada, but when you’re an Indigenous woman or Indigenous person, it can be deadly. Canada has staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women; girls; two-spirited community members; and men too. Every day, I read posts about at least three Indigenous humans who go missing and who are murdered across Turtle Island.

I don’t make that statement to be dramatic; I make it because it’s true. If you want to verify or learn more, check out the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The report found that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations are the root cause of the staggering rates of violence against our women.

Indigenous women are murdered and go missing at an alarming rate in this country of Canada. There is yet to be a report on the men who go missing and who are murdered, but I know those numbers are staggering as well.

I ask myself how this reality is not an issue of national concern. Why do Indigenous people continue to be overlooked and literally tossed into landfills with little disregard? I wonder if people really know that the red dresses hanging in some store windows and in trees are reminders and representations of the epidemic.

As I crossed the border from New Brunswick into Fleur-dis-lis country, I thought about how safe I feel in Cuba, and how unsafe I sometimes feel in my own country.

In Cuba, I don’t worry about being killed by a police officer during a wellness check, like what happened to Chantel Moore. I don’t worry about being shot for driving into someone’s yard to ask for help, like what happened to Colton Boushie on August 9, 2016. Nor do I fear that my physical body will be disrespected after my death or fear that my hands will be removed to identify my remains after I’m already buried, like Anna Mae Aquash nee Anna Mae Pictou.

Our Indigenous people go missing in all provinces across Canada, but Quebec has a reputation in Indian country for being particularly racist and a little bit scary to our Indigenous people who travel through.

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, or the people of Quebec start to pen a note to the editor, you should know that I have the same fear and apprehension when I travel to Saskatchewan and British Columbia. I’m just saying that Quebec has a reputation for not being particularly nice to Indigenous people, and that’s where I happened to drive through this past week. Actually, most Indigenous people go missing in British Columbia, Manitoba comes in at a close second, and then Saskatchewan and Alberta.

One of my beautiful; strong; resilient; and courageous friends, Charity, happens to be walking across Canada right now to tell people about what’s happened and continues to happen to our Indigenous people. She’s also walking for Barry Blaine Seymour, her son’s father who has been missing since May of 2012. Charity and her family continue to look for answers about his whereabouts. A couple of weeks ago during a walk she was recently advised to leave a certain province as quickly as possible because her and her husband were not safe there. True story.

When I started this column last month, I asked you to walk with me. I asked you to take part in reconciliation with me. Well, if you’re truly interested in that, I want you to read these names out loud – all of them – with me.

Abigail Andrews, Amanda Cook, Anne Peters, Barbara Keam, Bonnie Jack, Chantelle Bushie, Cheryl Johnson, Cindy Gladue, Debbie Pelletier, Desiree Oldwoman, Edna Bernard, Freda Goodrunning, Morgan Harris, Gloria Moody, Hilary Wilson, Jane Bernard, Juanita Cardinal, Judy Quill, Linda Condo, Maggie Mink, Flora Muskego, Olivia Williams, Patricia Carpenter, Rena Fox, Richele Bear, Rowena Sharpe, Shannon Alexander, Sharon Merasty, Simone Sanderson, Tabitha Kalluk, Chantelle Moore, Tania Marsden, Teresa Robinson, Tanya Brooks, Tiffany Skye, Victoria Crow Shoe, Violet Heathen and Wendy Poole.

That’s what those red dresses represent! These names you just read aloud are people. They are daughters, sisters, aunties, grandmothers, cousins, friends, and life partners.

Now say these names aloud with me.

Chris Metallic, Rodney Levi, Troy Cook, Barry Seymour, Charles Oudie, Coulton Boushie, Carl Banman, Bryer Prysiazniuk-Settee, Billy Jay Sharphead, Andrew Carter Morris, Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Reggie Bushie, Klye Morrisseau, Jordan Wabasse, Paul Panacheese and Robyn Harper.

These names represent sons, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, cousins, and friends. They were human beings.

These are just a few of the men, women, teenagers, and children who remain missing or who have been murdered in Canada.

Are you familiar with the landfill just outside of Winnipeg, called Prairie Green Landfill on Brady Road? Indigenous activists and supporters gather there because the remains of Rebecca Contois were recovered from the landfill. Winnipeg police believe that the remains of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Buffalo Woman and an unidentified Indigenous women are also in the same Prairie Green landfill.

Despite calls to have the landfill searched, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson has indicated that the province will not search the site because of technical concerns including worker safety, the length of the search, and bottom line. The bottom line – the cost – which I might add was determined by a very expensive feasibility study completed to determine whether or not the landfill should be searched.

I guess the 231 Calls for Justice of the MMIWG2S+ report don’t apply to the Manitoba Government, or this situation.

Now, I ask you, do you now know why I feel safer in Cuba than I do in Canada?

Editors Note: An International Day of Action is planned for September 18, 2023, when Parliament sits. It is a day to stand together and to ask that the landfill be searched so that these women can be taken home.

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