Tuesday, December 13, 2011

UN Will Conduct Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women in Canada


Press Release – For Immediate Release

Ottawa, ON (December 13, 2011)UN Will Conduct Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada

(Ottawa) The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has decided to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada. The Committee, composed of 23 independent experts from around the world, is the UN’s main authority on women’s human rights. The Committee’s decision was announced today by Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), and Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).

The inquiry procedure is used to investigate what the Committee believes to be very serious violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In January and in September 2011, faced with the continuing failures of Canadian governments to take effective action in connection with the murders and disappearances, FAFIA and NWAC requested the Committee to launch an inquiry. Canada has signed on to the treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which authorizes the Committee to investigate allegations of “grave or systematic” violations of the Convention by means of an inquiry. Now that the Committee has formally initiated the inquiry, Canada will be expected to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation.

“FAFIA and NWAC requested this Inquiry because violence against Aboriginal women and girls is a national tragedy that demands immediate and concerted action,” said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell. “Aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-Aboriginal women, and young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence. NWAC has documented the disappearances and murders of over 600 Aboriginal women and girls in Canada over about twenty years, and we believe that there may be many more. The response of law enforcement and other government officials has been slow, often dismissive of reports made by family members of missing women, uncoordinated and generally inadequate.”

“These murders and disappearances have their roots in systemic discrimination and in the denial of basic economic and social rights” said Sharon McIvor of FAFIA. “We believe that the CEDAW Committee can play a vital role not only in securing justice for the women and girls who have died or disappeared, but also in preventing future violations, by identifying the action that Canadian governments must take to address the root causes. Canada has not lived up to its obligations under international human rights law to prevent, investigate and remedy violence against Aboriginal women and girls.”

“The Committee carried out an inquiry into similar violations in Mexico five years ago and we expect the process will follow the same lines here in Canada,” said McIvor. “Mexico invited the Committee’s representatives to make an on-site visit and during the visit the representatives interviewed victim’s families, government officials at all levels, and NGOs. The Committee’s report on the inquiry spelled out the steps that Mexico should take regarding the individual cases and the systemic discrimination underlying the violations. Mexican women’s groups say that the Committee’s intervention helped to spur Government action and we hope to see the same result here in Canada, said McIvor.” Download PDF press release.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hugh Jackman on Aboriginal Communities

I think it's important to acknowledge that the education systems across the world have gone out of their way to ignore or hide the history and ongoing reality of indigenous peoples. Hugh Jackman is one of my favorite actors and I'm glad that he's owing up to his own lack of education and becoming aware of the culture of the Aboriginal people in his own country.

Adrienne Wilkinson at Comic Con

Saturday afternoon actor and producer Adrienne Wilkinson visited the Men’s Banner Project table. She was interested in putting her hand on the banner. I explained participating in making the banner was just for men but I appreciated the support.  She graciously posed for a photo with me. 

Adrienne Wilkinson and myself

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Number One is added to the Men's Banner

This year Jonathan Frakes was a celebrity guest at Comic Con. He is known for his roles as William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gargoyles, NCIS: Los Angeles, Criminal Minds, Wings, The Twilight Zone, Eight is Enough, Charlie's Angels and Fantasy Island.  My favourites were Star Trek and Gargoyles!

With a brief introduction from his manager I met Jonathan Frakes and asked him to place his hand print on the banner. We spoke about my project, why I had begun this initiative and that I wore a Star Trek costume because Star Trek is anti violence against women.  His response was “and we have been for centuries!”  That was awesome.

Jonathan Frakes signing the banner
Jonathan Frakes

Myself and Number One
Jonathan Frakes and Yuri holding the Men's Banner

An Explosive Event!

This weekend my mission was to boldly go where no men's banner has gone before. I took part in the Central Canada Comic Con at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, creating another men's banner on site. Surprisingly this was the best experience I've ever had making a banner. I completed one in two days with no negative encounters.  It was awesome and I'm glowing from happiness. 

Raven Toys Comics and Games is a store that sells classic toys and collectibles, they organize Comic Con each year in Winnipeg. I approached them about the Men’s Banner Project, they were so enthusiastic and accommodating that I was blown away by their kindness. 

I initially thought Comic Con would be a good place to have a banner because it would be bringing the idea of non-violence and respect for women to a specific audience.  Also, not many people know this about me but I’m a really, really big Star Trek fan. I really love it. I grew up watching Star Trek; I loved the stories, the fantasy, the cinematic techniques behind making it and the multiculturalism of the Star Trek universe.  Women are valued in Star Trek; Aboriginal people exist and they fly space ships.  That made a big impact on me as a film maker and activist. 

Saturday October 29th, 2011 Day 1 of the Men’s Banner Project at Comic Con

I was super enthusiastic about my project weeks before the convention. I felt completely positive and even a small scooter accident I was in the week before didn’t worry me.  But, when I arrived Saturday morning and began setting up my booth I was overwhelmed by the event. I felt out of place across from comic book artists and a throng of people wandering about in costume. I thought it was a horrible idea to be there and that no one would want to participate.  

A red Power Ranger walked by and I called out to him. I explained my project and asked if he would put his hand print on the banner. He said of course and that stopping violence against women was what the power rangers were all about. After that I realized it was going to be a really great day.

Red Power Ranger beginning the banner
Yuri was helping me, as he always does

Instead of wearing my Aboriginal outfit, myself and Yuri dressed in Star Trek uniforms. 

My first spider-man
I was so busy creating the banner I didn’t take as many photo’s as I would have liked to. There were so many people dressed up, events, interesting booths and celebrity guests. I met William Shatner, Kevin Sorbo, Jonathan Frakes, Nana Visitor, Ethan Phillips, Chase Masterson and Adrienne Wilkinson, I will be blogging about each encounter separately.

Throughout the day when men walked by I called out "I'm looking for a hero!"  Below is some of the men who responded to my call.

(right) Ian friend and artist
Venom put his hand print down and then brought back his friend Super Boy
Dad and daughter
Dark Knight
A friendly colourful zombie
Enthusiastic young men

Doctor Who
Fellow Star fleet officers
Myself with Sailor Moon and Batgirl
Indiana Jones

Nick Fury aka graphic artist Scott Redding

Friday, October 21, 2011

March tries to Take Back the Night for women

March tries to Take Back the Night for women

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

March tries to Take Back the Night for women

HANDS cupped around candles, hundreds of Manitobans took to the streets on Thursday to shine a light and raise their voices to Take Back the Night.

As the sun set, more than 300 people turned out for the annual march, now in its fourth decade of protesting violence against women.

Though they walked in memory of the lost, the march did not go quietly. They beat drums and raised a cacophony of chants, whistles, songs and scattered claps -- a clattering racket made to smash the silence around women who disappeared forever into the night.

Like the silence of Divas Boulanger, killed and left at a rest stop in Portage la Prairie in 2004, remembered on this march in photos her friends held high towards a darkening sky.

Or like the silenced voice of Hillary Angel Wilson, 18, who vanished into the night in 2009. Her body was found on a road outside Winnipeg, only one month after that of her friend, Cherisse Houle, was discovered. Both were killed. Both of their families still wait for answers.

"We stand in solidarity tonight with all the women who have been abused," said Sally Wai, who helped found the Central Park Women's Resource Centre.

As they gathered in front of the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre -- near where a young girl was abducted and sexually assaulted in spring 2010 -- Wai called for an end to attacks that, she said, amount to a war against women.

"Is someone out there to hear my prayer?" she called. "I am a woman, I am a proud woman, and I always will be... Stop the violence. We have to stand up."

After the march wove through the West End and spilled onto Portage Avenue, then gathered for bannock and tea near the corner of Langside Street and Ellice Avenue, Wilson's aunt Candace Volk straightened the T-shirt that bears her niece's face.

Volk now volunteers with a Facebook page that helps send out alerts and gather information about vanished women and girls. She knows too many of the faces she sees at marches like Take Back the Night.

"You know so many people by face, know that they're going through the same thing you are," Volk said. Her family will celebrate Hillary's birthday in November, still hoping for answers.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2011 A13