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Two more years of ball bouncing


August 10, 2016
By Ian Parsons

801 words – MR

Two more years of ball bouncing

– RCMP

The recently announced, $54 million National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls plans to take two years to complete its work and publish its report. Its efforts will no doubt raise awareness to the ongoing tragedy and utter hopelessness of life on Indian Reservations.

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A cynic might wonder what the inquiry will change and how many more women will suffer in the interim.

When people struggle with economic deprivation, poverty and loss of identity, alcoholism and drug abuse are common. Domestic violence is almost inevitable under such conditions. Every ghetto in every city in the world has near identical dynamics and statistics when it comes to violence against women.

The data is in.

If one narrowed the focus of the inquiry to law enforcement personnel who have served in indigenous communities across Canada and asked the right questions, the root causations would be blatantly obvious without incurring the exorbitant cost of this national inquiry.

Environmental conditions on most Canadian Indian Reservations are abhorrent. Unemployment is rampant, poverty is everywhere, and the likelihood of positive self-identity among residents is remote. With no prospects to escape such a setting, alcohol or drugs dull the pain and self-hatred many indigenous people feel.

Many who venture to cities gravitate to similar depressed areas and experience even greater rejection due to minimal education and lack of skills or job training.

Just a little over a generation past, the Indian Act deemed it unlawful for an Indian (the official terminology in the Indian Act) to possess liquor either on or off the reserve. In 1970, in the case of the majority of the Canadian Supreme Court considered <s.94(b)> of that act, which made it an offence for an Indian to be intoxicated off a reserve.

In effect the section singled out Indians because there was no similar legislation penalizing intoxicated non-Indians. The court ruled that this section contravenes the equality guarantee in <s. 1 (b)> of the Canadian Bill of Rights and struck it down.

It is not surprising that indigenous people during those years would ingest an intoxicant as quickly as possible to avoid a confrontation with police. Often the result would be a “drunken Indian.” Those were the conditions under which indigenous people were socialized into consuming liquor.

The plethora of negative dynamics was further exacerbated by sexual abuse many indigenous children experienced in residential schools. The trauma victims suffered did little to prepare them for their roles as parents.

Combine all these factors and it is not surprising that spousal assaults and violence became very prevalent on reservations. Children being reared under such disturbing circumstances often mature into models of their parents, perpetuating the problems with their own children.

These discriminating sections of the Indian Act starkly reflected the paternalistic attitude of successive Canadian governments toward indigenous peoples.

When the dynamics that lead to violence against indigenous women are so self-evident, striking an inquiry to determine causation seems redundant to the extreme.

The $53.8 million budget allocated to the discovery of the problems would be far better spent beginning to solve them. The issue has prevailed for decades, even centuries.

Sociologists and academics have pointed to the third world conditions on Indian Reservations and made recommendations but nothing changes.

Law enforcement is often the “leading edge” of government policy and is caught in the middle. Not always responding to the unique policing needs of indigenous communities with a measure of empathy, police in recent years have attempted to present a more “community based” profile.

Historically, politicians have bounced the ball back and forth on this issue, rarely offering any alternatives to remedy the perennially terrible conditions Canada’s indigenous people have had to endure.

In the end, police are left to confront the vexing and violent manifestations of the shoddy treatment of indigenous peoples. The disproportionate incarceration of indigenous citizens in our gaols is another sad but very evident symptom of the entire issue.

Two more years will pass while this inquiry deliberates, ponders and assembles their findings. Indigenous people will continue to languish in prison. More indigenous women will die along with many of their men.
It is time to wrestle this monster to the ground and finally integrate Canada’s indigenous peoples into Canadian society.

It will take resources and money and some very hard decisions. The new Liberal government is turning a compassionate face to these forgotten people. Now it must take the hard steps to really make a difference.

BIO

Ian T. Parsons is a retired RCMP inspector currently living in Courtenay, BC. He is the author of and an occasional Blue Line editorialist. Contact: liparsonsposse@shaw.ca