On Feb 14, Vancouver’s Women’s Memorial March will honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
There were 1,181 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada between 1980 and 2012, according to the RCMP. However, according to grassroots organizations and the Minister of the Status of Women the number is much higher, closer to 4,000.
These numbers are even more devastating when we consider that Indigenous women and girls make up only 4% of the female population in Canada.
This has major implications for the health of women and our communities right here in Vancouver, and across Canada.
Amongst the biggest health issues facing Indigenous women are poverty, single parenthood, unemployment, and poor housing.
When we look at health and social services with successful track records - they’re consistently underfunded, and staff members are overworked. This challenge is only exacerbated in rural and remote communities... many in BC lack mental health supports all together.
It is increasingly being recognized that a decolonizing approach should be adopted by the healthcare system, through PHSA’s Declaration of Commitment, and the Ministry of Health’s commitment to adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples, and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
… but the needs are still far greater than the resources available.
We need commitment to embed Indigenous cultural safety across all health and social services, that can only be satisfied when Indigenous women feel safe and supported every single time they interface with the healthcare system.
“It isn’t easy to decolonize as we go. We know there’s more work to do, and we will continue to deepen this approach as we move forward.” - Interim Report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
So on this 26th anniversary of the Women’s Memorial March, Canada must vow to hold systems accountable and elevate the voices of Indigenous peoples and communities.
We look to a future of culturally-safe care, for all Indigenous women in BC.
Learn more about the march.
Thumbnail photo by @YWCAVAN