Sunday, December 6, 2015

Being a woman in Alberta on the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

Last year in honour of the ecole polytechnique de Montreal I was honoured to speak at the U of C Facility of Law. (You wouldn't know by the Herald but Jennifer Koshan did acknowledge it. It matters to acknowledge Indigenous women. When Indigenous women are marginalized and ignored, that is a form colonial violence.)

Women murdered

commemorative plaque in polished stone, deeply engraved with in circle with 14 small silver disks distributed around the circle. Inside, and under the university's logo and the legend "In Memoriam" are the names of the 14 victims and the date of the massacre
Memorial plate on the side of École Polytechnique.
  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967) mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student (Thank you Wiki)

    To be very clear, the École Polytechnique massacre was a hate crime. The concept of hate crimes are very powerful to me right now, living in Alberta and what I'm seeing today, scares me.

    Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine in a year from the time of that speech at the U of C, that we'd have a new NDP premier, The Honourable, Rachel Notley. I may not be a NDPer but after 44 years of Conservative rule, it was clearly a failure of imagination on my part. Being born and raised here, I thought the corruption of the PC's would never end. (Read Dr. Kevin Taft's books for more on that.) So we have Rachel Notley and as I write this, the Edmonton Journal PUBLISHED this:
(Thanks @Calgarykiaguy for the modified pic)

The Edmonton Journal actually looked at this, ok'd it and published this, never mind the cartoonist thinking it was ok to dream of anyway. I will mention that if one is to google Harper back stab, you do not find a similar picture. Why? Why is it ok to show violence against women? Why is ok to show violence against a female politician? I would never advocate violence against any politician, male or female, be ok. Honestly, if someone were to make a pic like this about Harper, the RCMP and CSIS would be all over that person. Why should this be an exception? "But it's a fucking cartoon!" as one of my Facebook friends said. Well, cartoons are powerful and talk about issues of the day in ways words apparently can not explain as quickly as with a visual. That is their purpose. This picture shows how normal it is in Alberta to depict violence against women. In fact, another Facebook friend pointed out: Between-the-lines implication in the comic is that farmers are fighting Bill 6 to retain the right to harm others "accidentally". I had old friends share this pic and when I posted about it, I was met with hostility and unfriended by an old school friend, turned farmer, unwilling to admit violence against women was NOT ok even against a female politician. This is the state of discourse in Alberta and it's 2015.

Then there is the underlining racism combined with sexism..

I would have never imagined Bradley Barton being found not guilty of first, second or third degree murder in the killing of Cindy Gladue. That sparked outrage nationally by Indigenous peoples' and we had over twenty rallies in April calling for Justice for Cindy Gladue. The RCMP released biased data on missing and murdered women that didn't explain how they came to the collected data, or how they determined their definition of "Aboriginal" leaving many of us confused on the numbers yet glad they would acknowledge it to some degree. We had a Prime Minister that refused to acknowledge that an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women was really on his radar as his government systemically cut funding to Indigenous groups, including the Sisters in Spirit. These are very strong and damaging race and gendered based messages from our so-called leaders on social status in Alberta as an Indigenous woman and it's 2015. The racism is so bad, the CBC had to shut down their comments section on Indigenous issues and showcased a video inspired by Jimmy Kimmel's mean tweets to explain why.

As if the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) wasn't enough, we just had the longest election that focused solely on race and sex by targeting the niqab. Even Calgary's mayor said the niqab issue doesn't make any sense and should be focusing on the MMIW inquiry. While Harper didn't win the election, the rhetoric that he sparked with his policies, continued. Muslim women across Canada began to be attacked in Calgary, (pregnant in Montreal) (Toronto) and even a woman just wearing a scarf due to weather conditions was attacked. Hate in Calgary was painted on the LRT.

In 2009, there was mention about how abuse was the highest in Alberta. In 2012, three-quarters of Albertans know a woman who has been abused.. in 2013, a call out to the provincial leadership to be part of the effort to reduce violence. Our premier in 2014 was an ex-Harper Indian Affairs minister federally where colonial and sexist policies to a race of people are the norm and he publicly stated there was no need for a MMIW inquiry. The start of 2015, an article on extreme rates and increase in violence in Alberta. Finally, as the NDP government gained power, MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, had the strength to speak on her own experience with domestic violence in the Alberta Legislature because it's 2015.

I went to the outreach consultation in Calgary that the NDP's newly created Status of Women ministry put on. (There are only three locations, Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray available, excluding small towns and reserves.) I told them point blank Alberta should be declared a state of emergency for women's safety in Alberta. I was met with wide eyes by the employees. For a group that declared they want to build feminism in Alberta, I worry about the future when so much violence against women in Alberta is unaddressed, where root issues are not discussed, in a province that prides itself on no government interference and has arms willing to prove it. Women in Alberta fleeing violence have the odds stacked against them on wage gap let alone other barriers like the fact there isn't training on honour based violence nor colonial violence risk assessment in the current intimate-partner model that is preferred. In a province where one of the major news outlets published a picture of violence against our premier. In a province where women and children are denied entry into shelters because of them being over capacity. In a province where we have child care capacity and affordability issues. In a province that has affordable housing issues. In a province that I live in and worry about the future for my daughter. And if you're a women in Alberta that feels safe, please consider yourself part of a very elite minority as the stats show something very different.

Because it's 2015.

Edited to add:

Just a reminder that creating a safety plan is something you may never use but in case it's needed, it's available. In memory of the Montreal massacre, the rise in domestic violence, the rise in MMIW, have these resources on hand. Awo Taan Healing Lodge​'s website has a way to clear your computer of tracing if it feels that unsafe. (Safe exit)

Please make safety plans.

Edited to add that one of the women from Alberta that is in Paris attending Climate Change talks, posted this today, on the anniversary:

Edited to add again, a Dene sister's experience in Fort McMurray TODAY:

June 18, 2016 edited to add: