Photo cred - AJ Batac
An article published late last week by Maclean's has gained a lot of controversy. Its title is "Welcome to Winnipeg: Where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst." The article details the experiences of many First Nations residents of Winnipeg, who share their stories of harassment and discrimination.
It also points to several recent events that have gained media attention. Namely, the death of 15 year old Tina Fontaine, a girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation, who was sexually exploited and killed in downtown Winnipeg, wrapped in plastic, and thrown into a river.
Then there's Rinelle Harper, the 16-year-old First Nations girl who was sexually assaulted and left for dead in the Assiniboine River. Harper recently spoke out, asking for an inquiry to be held into Canada's problem of violence and sexual assault of First Nations women.
The article also mentioned 45 year old Brian Sinclair, an indigenous man who came to the ER with a completely treatable infection, and died there after being ignored by staff for 34 hours. This article has caused a lot of controversy in Winnipeg, with some arguing that their city is no more racist than the rest of Canada, and some coming forward with more stories and experiences.
Regardless of whether or not we can quantify the degree of racism in a particular place, and rank it against other places, this article has shed valuable light on a problem that Canada has been ignoring for years. Indigenous women are going missing and being murdered at a much higher rate than other women in the country.
Much of this is to do with unchecked racist stereotypes about First Nations women's sexual availability, encouraging some men to disproportionately choose them as targets for assault. Many police also have internalized biases that keep them from being objective in cases involving First Nations women, making them much less likely to respond in a helpful manner to indigenous women's problems.
You can read more about Canada's problem with violence against indigenous women, and what can be done about it, at Amnesty International's website.