Truth and reconciliation are terms that many of us will never fully understand, as we’ve lived in a country that has given us a great deal of opportunity. But for the women in First Nations and aboriginal communities, it is something they continue to try and find from a government who has not done nearly enough to support them.
I had the great honour of attending a presentation on Highway 16 – The Highway of Tears – that was hosted by the K’ómoks First Nations. I left that evening asking myself a question that I still have not answered: “How can a government fail its First Nations women to such an extent?”
I saw tears that night, real tears, and every one that dropped was a reminder of extreme loss and suffering; a reminder that our government has failed; a reminder that we must do better as a society.
I also had the honour of recently standing in solidarity with missing and murdered aboriginal women when we marched on the legislature during the Stolen Sisters Memorial March. I am proud that my family has close ties to the First Nations of this province and I am resolved to keep fighting for them. I saw tears that day as well, tears falling from the faces of women, men, children, young and old alike. Little drops of solidarity that did not know the socially constructed realities of race and discrimination.
It’s hard to imagine our government creating any real, meaningful relationships with indigenous women when they continue to suffer because of government neglect. For example, a 2012 article in the National Post explained how Indigenous girls in British Columbia are most at risk of experiencing sexual violence while in the care of the province. Sixty percent – over half – of children living on reserves are living in poverty, and according to statistics, First Nations communities see death by suicide at a rate twice that of the national average.
It is time for change. It is time to build a British Columbia that knows tears not of sadness, or generational loss, but of joy and happiness. Our First Nations women need support, not excuses; they need resources, not explanations; they need compassion and care, not political rhetoric.