Statement on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People

We need to talk about something incredibly difficult. We know it can be hard to read and engage with this content, especially when you or someone you care about has experienced or been impacted by gender-based violence. We hope that reading this will feel validating and supportive, but you get to decide if you want to read through any, some, or all of it. Take care of yourself.

Four Indigenous women/girls’ remains have been found in and around the DTES/Vancouver area in the last three months. Three more Indigenous women have been reported missing, and their faces are on posters throughout the city. The visibility (and in some cases lack of visibility) of this violence, disproportionately directed at Indigenous women, two-Spirit, and LGBTQIA individuals of all genders, is a heavy weight to bear. Or rather, another heavy weight to bear. It hurts and we want you to know you’re not alone.

Dear Indigenous Kin,

The first thing we want to tell you is that we are sorry. We are sorry for the loss of your loved ones and the pain that comes with bearing witness as a community. You should not have to see and hear these stories. You should not have to live these stories. This should not be our reality. You deserve better. However you are feeling right now, it makes sense. There is no one right way to respond to ongoing violence (and the resulting trauma). Sometimes we are numb, sometimes we are devastated, sometimes we are outraged, sometimes we use inappropriate humour as a defense mechanism. Whichever experience you are having is the right one for you.

We don’t need to explain to you why this is painful, you have known for generations. We do not want to assume your experience at this time. We do want to reinforce that you matter. Indeed, you as an Indigenous woman, two-spirit or lgbtqia person are sacred. Your existence, your joy, your pain, your triumphs, your failures – the entirety of you deserves to be supported, admired, appreciated, and especially nurtured. You are sacred exactly as you are.

As a society we are deeply disappointing when it comes to supporting people who have been harmed. Victim blaming attitudes are deeply embedded in our societal mores and even laws. We internalize these attitudes and end up blaming ourselves when we are hurt. Colonization thrives on the idea that if you just behave a certain way (the ‘correct’ way), bad things will not happen to you. While certainly this thought corresponds to feeling less anxious, it has the unfortunate impact of telling us we are to blame as a result of the ‘incorrect’ choices we must have made.

Chances are, you already know this is not true. There is not anything you can do that warrants someone else causing you harm. The erasure of the people responsible for causing harm contributes to our societal tolerance of violence. And while you might already know, sometimes it is hard to believe, you do not deserve this.

There is a difference between what is being sensationalized right now, violence occurring “at random,” which the media has focused on, and violence that targets us on the basis of our identities and colonial power hierarchies by which we are made vulnerable.

This is not random. It is different to live in a society where violence sometimes happens between strangers, and living in a society where people like us are targeted on the basis of who we are. We have resisted this violence for centuries, and we will continue to rise up, resist, and protect our sovereign rights over our lands, lives, communities, and bodies.

As we think through this complexity of the continued violence of colonization, we recognize that it can be overwhelming and scary. Feeling scared is a completely understandable reaction to violent actions that are disproportionately directed at people like us. On top of that, the only stories of ours being told are the ones where we are targeted for violence. And we’re so much more than that.

We deserve for our stories to be told in ways that celebrate our diversity, beauty, talents, and complexities. We are whole people. Until we are seen this way, safety tips will be inadequate. Avoidance behaviours such as not visiting certain areas, only being in well-lit places, never being out alone serve the purpose of limiting how, where, and when we exist. I want you to know, we want you to know, you deserve the right to exist safely and peacefully on this earth no matter what.

My team and I want to welcome you to SVPRO to find support, validation, and love. We recognize the depth of the impact of gender-based violence and its roots in colonization. Our space is your space. We see you. We hear you. We are so glad you’re here.

All My Relations,

Lauren llaanaay Casey

With support and solidarity from Alicia, Althea, Ariana, Dawn, Erin, Habi, Ogake, and Sasha of SVPRO