On March 17th a Panel Presentation at Atwater Library brought hundreds of people out, many of whom were standing for over two hours. The panelists included Beverley Jacobs (president of NWAC), Ellen Gabriel (president of QNW), Laurie Odjick (mother of Maisy Odjick who has been missing since September), Bridget Tolley (daughter of Gladys Tolley who was killed by Quebec police), and Sue Martin (two of her daughters have died as the result of violence).
Each woman spoke from her heart and spoke to the facts, and there was no contradiction there.
Problems cited were consistent: the media pays little or no attention to their cases. When there is any media attention, it is usually skewed in such a fashion that seems to lay blame for the woman’s death or disappearance on her family or her “high-risk lifestyle.” The families of Indigenous women or girls who disappear are often told by police to “wait until Christmas,” or “wait until her birthday” for their daughters, sisters or mothers to reappear, as though they had simply run away.
Abuses by the media and police were even more direct in some cases. Bridget Tolley’s mother Gladys was run over by an SQ cruiser in 2002 and she is still trying to provoke a serious investigation, to this day. According to Tolley, the police that originally “investigated” her mother’s death were the perpetrator’s brother.
Sue Martin’s daughter was killed in her own home and the only suspect, the father of her three children, is still walking free and continues to maintain custody of their children.
Laurie Odjick broke down several times talking about her sixteen year old daughter Maisy, who disappeared from the Kitigan Zibi reserve where they live in September 2008. She could not handle how little media attention the case was getting, and the fact that the police had no leads whatsoever. Police had recently told her that they suspected her daughter had run away, in spite of the fact that her wallet had been left behind, with money still in it.
Beverley Jacobs, who has been working on issues of violence against Indigenous women in the public eye for many years now, lost her own niece a few years ago to a violent disappearance. “The problem is personal,” she said.
Ellen Gabriel, who has also worked on the issue of violence against women for many years spoke with great energy which the crowd was very receptive to. She spoke about the root causes of the violence that Canada’s racist policies have caused, and continue to cause, such as the Indian Act, which targets Indigenous women particularly.
From left to right: Sue Martin, Laurie Odjick, Bridget Tolley, Ellen Gabriel, Beverley Jacobs.
This is not the whole crowd.
The family of Tiffany Morrison, from Kanawake, also made it to the event to share their story: Tiffany got into a cab in Montreal in 2006 and was never seen again. Police have not managed to provide any information on the cab. “If anyone here knows where she is, please tell us,” her family said.