Cherokee Morning Song

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Anonymous Creates Map of Turtle Island’s Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

The online hacker group Anonymous has turned its attention to Canada’s missing and murdered women, compiling a map from police reports and online public input that designates each case across Turtle Island for the past 10 years with a glaring red circle.

Special attention is given to Thunder Bay, Ontario, CBC News said. There, police are investigating the kidnapping and assault of an indigenous woman as a possible hate crime. A 19-year-old Oji-Cree youth has come forward to bear witness to the grabbing of the woman in the December 27 attack, according to CBC News, and to the fact that the perpetrators hurled racial epithets and pelted him with various objects from their vehicle as he walked along the road.

The murder and disappearance of hundreds of aboriginal women over the past two decades has caused an international outcry and sparked demands from indigenous leaders for a national inquiry into why many of these crimes go unsolved. The map was released on February 5.

Rinelle Harper calls for inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, a month after she was left for dead in riverbank

Rinelle Harper speaks at the Assembly of First Nations Election in Winnipeg on Tuesday.         Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — Clutching an eagle feather in one hand and a prepared statement in the other, First Nations sexual assault survivor Rinelle Harper used her first major public appearance since the attack to call for a national inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing aboriginal women.
Just a month and a day after she was left for dead in a riverbank not far from the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly where she was honoured in a ceremony Tuesday, the 16-year-old spoke in a monotone that seemed to take all of her strength to muster.
“I’m here to talk about an end to violence against young women,” she told one of Canada’s largest First Nations gatherings, her voice halting slightly. “I am thankful for the thoughts and prayers from everyone. I understand that conversations have been happening all across the country about ending violence against indigenous women and girls. But I want to continue on with my life and I am thankful I will be able to go back to school to see my friends and be with my family.”
Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press
Trevor Hagan / The Canadian PressWith the support of her family, Rinelle Harper, second from left, stands after speaking at the Assembly of First Nations Election in Winnipeg on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan
Since being beaten and sexually assaulted on a path by the Assiniboine River in downtown Winnipeg on Nov 8, Ms. Harper has improved with every day, and even met with the men who saved her life. Others have met with her since to share their own stories of healing.
“I ask that everyone here remembers a few simple words: Love, kindness, respect and forgiveness,” she said. “As a survivor, I respectfully challenge you all to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.”
Her remarks were met with a standing ovation, the crowd of delegates, chiefs and elders loud in their support. Flanked by her family, she shook hands with a stream of elders on the AFN stage — a political event in downtown Winnipeg where a new national chief will be elected this week. She also spoke quietly with her sister and mother, sharing short comments and even small smiles, searching the crowd with her eyes as others at the podium spoke — exhibiting a shy, quiet confidence. She also clutched hands with supporters who wished her well as she took a seat with her family amidst the crowd.

The issue of murdered and missing women took prominence at the assembly of 1,300 delegates and 300 chiefs and proxies from First Nations across Canada, colouring nearly every aspect of the opening ceremonies.
Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who leads the AFN’s work on the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women, said Harper’s story put a face to the “cold statistics” in this country: Aboriginal women and girls are three times more likely than non-aboriginals to be victims of violence.
He thanked Ms. Harper for her courage to stand before the assembly Tuesday morning.
“We must learn of her story and say loudly and clearly: Not. One. More. It is time to act, to end this senseless type of violence.”
John Woods / The Canadian Press
John Woods / The Canadian PressJulie and Caesar Harper, parents of Rinelle Harper, are comforted by Chief Andrew Colomb (centre) of Marcel Colomb First Nation and Chief Gregg Harper (left) of Red Sucker Lake at a press conference in Winnipeg on Nov. 13.
Ms. Harper’s parents made the rare decision last month to publicize their daughter’s name in hopes of expediting the police investigation. It worked: Two men, one 20 and the other 17, were arrested shortly after the attack and charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.
But the publicity has done much more: It’s continued the momentum around the push for a national inquiry into the 1,180 murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls in Canada; a problem the delegates gathered at this assembly will tackle in discussions this week. The Assembly of First Nations is hoping its new chief will maintain sharp focus on the quest for a national inquiry into the murdered and missing women. Last May, the national RCMP reported 164 aboriginal women in their review were recorded missing. Upwards of 1,017 of them were homicide victims.
The AFN is working to get more federal faces at February’s National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Women, which has so far garnered commitments from Status of Women minister Dr. Kellie Leitch, and premiers from across Canada.
Addressing the assembly Tuesday, Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakinak First Nation said the federal government’s commitment to the issue would become clear in February, based on who is gathered around the table.
“We have been talking about this for many, many years and finally there are people that are listening to our plea,” said Therese Villeneuve, chair of the National Women’s Council. “We are really trying to get this healing for us so that nothing like this continues to happen.”
Manitoba premier Greg Sellinger said the forthcoming roundtable will be the first time premiers have come together with “100% consensus” on this issue.
“There is much to do in this province since the tragic death of Tina Fontaine and many others who have gone before her and regrettably some who have gone since her tragic death. As you assemble today we want you to know we’re here in partnership with First Nations across this country and we look forward to your deliberations and the ability to work with you both on a provincial and on a national level as well.”
The death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in August renewed the call for a national inquiry and squared scrutiny on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Fontaine was found wrapped in plastic in Winnipeg’s Red River. She had been in the care of Child and Family Services and had been reported missing before her death. Her
Both young women came to Winnipeg from reserves north of the city in pursuit of a better education and a better life. Fontaine wanted to one day work with children. Ms. Harper wants to join the military.
She had been out with friends the night of her death but somehow got separated from the group. She was attacked on a path by the Assiniboine River shortly after midnight Saturday, Nov. 8. Police believe one of her attackers may have gone on to sexually assault another woman. Ms. Harper made her first public appearance late last month, when she met with the men who saved her life.
“Her fast recovery is a miracle from above,” Ms. Harper’s grandfather, Fred Harper, said at the time.
While announcing Fontaine’s death, Winnipeg police Sergeant John O’Donovan said far more attention needs to be paid to the plight of these missing and murdered girls. “Society would be horrified if we found a litter of kittens or pups in the river in this condition.” he said. “This is a child. Society should be horrified.”

Tina Fontaine's death focuses attention on missing, murdered aboriginal women

By: Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press

Tina Fontaine is seen in this undated handout photo. Fontaine 's killer has never been caught. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO, Winnipeg Police Service

WINNIPEG - Eleven years before 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was pulled from the Red River wrapped in a bag, the same riverbank was the setting for another tragedy.

Felicia Solomon Osborne didn't return home from school in March 2003.
Frustrated by what they felt was lack of action from police in finding the 16-year-old, her family members put up their own missing posters.
Three months later, one of Felicia's arms and a leg were pulled from the same spot where Tina's body would later be found.
Felicia's killer has never been caught.
Neither has Tina's.
But a lot has changed when it comes to awareness of the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
When Tina's body was discovered in August, Winnipeg police held an emotional news conference where a sergeant said "society should be horrified" by the violent death of a child.
More than 1,000 people took to the streets to call for action. Dozens camped in the shadow of the Manitoba legislature for weeks as they repeatedly called for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked about her death.
That didn't happen when Felicia was killed.
"Nobody connected with Felicia Solomon Osborne and yet that was some of the most savage levels perpetrated," said Nahanni Fontaine, special adviser on aboriginal women's issues for the Manitoba government. "Her mom, all she got back, was a leg and an arm. She was only 16, only a year older than Tina."
The issue reached a boiling point in 2014 with Tina's death and an attack a few months later on 16-year-old Rinelle Harper. Rinelle survived, agreed to be named publicly and has since spoken about the need to end violence against women.
The RCMP issued a landmark report in 2014 which put the total of missing and murdered aboriginal women at 1,181. Although indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, the report found they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
"Our message is getting across that this a Canadian problem," said Alberta regional chief Cameron Alexis with the Assembly of First Nations. "We have to be concerned. There is something wrong here."
Bernadette Smith has been waiting a long time for such awareness.
Her sister, Claudette Osborne, left behind four children when she disappeared in 2008. To this day, Smith doesn't know if her sister is alive or dead. When her nightmare first began, Smith couldn't get anyone who hadn't also lost a loved one to care.
That's all changed, she said.
"The conversation has switched. Other people are getting involved that aren't directly connected," Smith said. "When you find a 15-year-old's body dumped in the river like they're garbage, you start to think maybe that could have been my daughter or my sister or my niece."
Smith has been calling for a national inquiry for years, but after Tina's death many more joined her.
The federal government has so far refused, saying it is more interested in taking action than studying the issue. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Tina's death was not part of a "sociological phenomenon," but rather a crime and should be treated as such.
The federal government agreed to attend a round table meeting after Canada's premiers emerged from their annual meeting in August calling for a national forum. It's expected to be held in February.
Hopes are high the issue can sustain public attention well into next 2015. Advocates suggest the round table, which Harper will not be attending, is just the beginning.
"I want to say something positive about it — it sounds promising — but that's about all I can say," said Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson. "The federal government has to be really, really serious. They have to come with an open mind and an open heart and not tell us what they've put our money towards.
"I don't want to hear that. I've heard that all my life."
A spokesman for Kellie Leitch, the federal minister responsible for the status of women, said the minister was busy with cabinet committees and didn't have time for an interview on the subject.
Andrew McGrath sent an emailed statement on Leitch's behalf saying the government takes crimes against aboriginal women and girls "very seriously."
He noted the Conservatives have earmarked $25 million over five years on ways to address crimes against aboriginal women. One project is for development of community safety plans both off and on reserves, as well as initiatives to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse.
That isn't likely to be enough to keep the issue from resurfacing in the upcoming federal election, slated for next fall.
Both the Liberals and the Opposition New Democrats have promised to call a national public inquiry if elected.
Michele Audette, former president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said she has accepted the roundtable, but the idea for a national inquiry hasn't passed.
"We have so many spokespeople who will bring this issue everywhere they go," said Audette, who recently stepped down to run federally for the Liberals. "We have artists. We have musicians. We have politicians. We have all kinds of people who will work for that cause," she said.
"The only (side) ... missing right now is the Harper government.
"That's the way it is."

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