Sheila North-Wilson Calls for Justice for Aboriginal Women and their Families
December 10, 2012, 12:00 PM EST
Outspoken advocate and chief communications officer for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Sheila North-Wilson urged CAW delegates to push for justice and equal treatment of aboriginal women and their families.
North-Wilson, who previously worked as a CBC reporter where she won a Gemini Award, has spent years advocating on behalf of missing and murdered aboriginal women and their families. She has met numerous families who have lost their mothers, daughters, partners, sisters, and loved ones and these heartbreaking interactions have left a strong impression on her.
"The common thread of all the stories is that police didn't act immediately," said North-Wilson. She said this is starting to change, but progress is very slow. She compared the treatment of the mother of an 18-year-old aboriginal woman who had gone missing in Winnipeg to the mother of another young Caucasian young woman who went missing three weeks later. In the first case, the mother was told her daughter was probably out binge drinking and would be home soon. When two weeks passed and her daughter did not return, still police didn't stir. In the other instance, the police were compassionate and helpful to the mother of the missing girl, assisting every step of the way.
"Why is this happening in Canada, one of the richest nations in the world?" asked North-Wilson. "We are the First Nations of this country, we deserve respect. Our families deserve respect."
North-Wilson grew up in the rural location of Bunibonibee Cree Nation (Oxford House) and moved to Winnipeg as a 15-year-old to attend school. She told delegates that this is the reality for many aboriginal youth, who must leave their home communities to continue to their education and are vulnerable to abuse, homelessness, falling behind in school and substance use.
Her speech touched a chord with delegates.
Dave Ladouceur, Marine and Shipworkers Federation Local 1 Sergeant at Arms, also of Aboriginal heritage, called the issue a national problem. "We have to speak out against this travesty of government inaction towards its indigenous people."
CAW Local 1106 Vice President and National Executive Board member Ruth Pryce said that North-Wilson's presentation was painful to hear, to think of the parents who don't know where their daughters are, children who don't know the whereabouts of their mothers. "When you don't know where your mother, sister or daughter is and it seems like no-one cares - how fair is that? We are all one humanity and should be treated equally."
CAW Local 2002 Atlantic Region Vice President Cheryl Robinson and chair of the CAW Council Women's Committee called on all local union leaders and members in the room to send a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding a national inquiry and a framework to end violence against Aboriginal women. She also encouraged members to press their MP, MPP, MLA and city councillors.
To sign the petition calling for a national inquiry, please visit: